Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Signs of Spring
I have my soil sample results from the County Extension Office!
It's just like Christmas.
This weekend, weather permitting, I'll add whatever quantities of nitrogen and potassium they recommend, rent a rototiller and till up the garden, then put in the plants. "What will we plant,what will we plant?" I tap my steepled fingers together like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons, "What will we plant?" Tomatoes, of course, and okra, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, squash. But maybe this year something different, corn? I haven't planted corn in ages.
Each of these plants offers its own special joy, its own special torment. Tomatoes, of course, are the Queen of the Garden, and for good reason. No one ever eats our butternut squash and says, "Oh my Lord, this butternut squash is delish! Did you grow it yourself?" Our squash is delicious, but it doesn't taste markedly different from any other butternut squash on the planet. The only problem is tomatoes are wickedly tempting to all sorts of critters who will wait exactly one day before a tomato is ready to pick and then take out a bite. I have tried various remedies - motion-detector water sprinklers, pepper spray, netting: nothing is entirely effective. Squirrels, chipmunks, and various birds - including our own chickens - find a way to sample the tomatoes, sometimes I even think the dog is getting at them. Not to worry, though, the yearly battle against these pilferers is part of the pleasure.
Peppers meanwhile, aren't attractive to animals, but in our yard at least, take forever to ripen. Cucumbers grow well, but so astonishingly quick. Overlook one for a day and it goes from cocktail wienie to kielbasa. One of my favorites is eggplant; I love watching those fat fruits inflate day by day from the ends of their stems like dark purple balloons. And okra. Okra is a blast. You put it in and at first, nothing. Then suddenly it decides to shoot up and towers over everything in the garden. Yellow flowers with purple centers turn almost overnight into okra pods. And corn. Yes, this year I will definitely plant corn. The problem with corn is, it takes mucho fertilizer, but it really is a glory. You start from seed - keep the chickens penned until it gets some growth, or they'll eat every last damn one out of the ground - and then it pops up in April and then - I've already used the verb "shoot" to describe okra, but shoot is the only word for it - it shoots up like a rocket. These absurd pollinating aerials form, and then the ears fill out. What fun to pull back the husks from row upon row of yellow kernels.
And Nancy will make her gazpacho from fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and okra and tomatoes, and eggplant casserole, and tomato sandwiches.
I can't wait. It's just like Christmas. I'm about to unwrap Spring.