Most of us have noticed the longer days, warmer temperatures and the insatiable desire to wear shorts and sandals. Not only does that mean spring is coming, it means we are getting ready for things like weekly disc golf, trips to the farmer’s market, barbeques, and picnics. It also means the gardening season is fast approaching.
Last night, we borrowed a friend’s tiller to prepare the garden (FYI – I have another trend going: for the past three years I have broken a belt on a tiller). As I was breaking up the soil, I realized just how much I love this part of the process; in fact, preparing the plot is probably my favorite part of gardening. There is just something about putting the sweat equity into a project after several months off. Plus you get the instant gratification of seeing your accomplishments. So much in gardening requires patience and persistence; it often takes months for your work to pay off. Tilling is the one time where brute force actually works in your favor.
But, it’s not just the actual work of prep that I enjoy – it is also what it represents. In order to till you have to have had several days of sunny spring weather, so the process usually starts right when people are getting spring fever. Tilling also goes hand in hand with planning. It is exciting to begin deciding what crops are going to be planted where and what schedule you are going to follow. While I was tilling, the neighborhood kids were out playing, the birds were swooping into our bird feeder, and the sun was just dipping below the horizon. I could not ask for a better life.
For Beth and I, beginning the garden holds special significance as it reminds us of the birth of Mikayla. Last year as we were prepping the garden, we were also getting ready to welcome our daughter into the world. Three days before she was born, we were planning our crops. And, as we were nurturing her and working through the challenges of a newborn, the garden was our escape and place of renewal.
Depending on how our plans for Swaziland develop, this could be our last year to garden here for quite a while. That makes the start of the season even more poignant for us.
We have many hours of work ahead of us in the garden this year, but as anyone who does it knows, you do it because you love it. We are both looking forward to another year of playing in the dirt.
For those of you who are interested, I thought I would quickly mention our plans for this year’s garden:
- We expanded our garden space by about 20% this year.
- We have already planted two rows of onion sets. Last year our onions did not do too well, but I think it was because we planted them too late and they were too wet.
- After we tilled the garden, we covered it with black plastic. We did this last year to kill the grass and it seemed to work well. It also helps to keep the ground warm, keeps it from getting compressed, and doesn’t allow early spring weeds to grow.
- Instead of a regular compost pile, this year we are going to use a home-made compost tumbler. I will keep you posted on that process with that.
- We are going to use our rain barrel again, but this year we will raise it up off the ground and possibly try adding a second capture container to it.
- Here are the crops we have planned: sweet corn, tomatoes (mostly roma, but some larger varieties), peppers (at least green, jalapeno, banana, and chili), broccoli, onions, carrots, parsnips, basil, okra, asparagus, squash and zucchini.