Spring opens, most years, with a one-step-forward-two-steps-back dance. Cold rain and snow twirl around sunshine and warmth, as the odd summer-like day and maybe an unexpected frost cut in now and then. Through this spring cha-cha, the landscape greens up, the earliest flowers – both wild and cultivated – bloom, and the trees unfurl their leaves. As color seeps back into the world, gardening tasks lengthen my to-do list.
With a spattering of veggie beds and a perennial garden we
revamped during last spring’s time of Staying Home, I’ve been fitting the
gardening in between work hours and soccer games, woods wanderings and playing
catch in the yard, dinnertime and bedtime. Much like spring, my gardening
efforts come in fits and starts.
As soon as the growing things emerge, it seems the weeds quickly outpace whatever it is we’ve planted. Last week, my son and I plucked new weeds from the front garden and spread mulch around clumps of daylilies and irises, moonbeam coreopsis and barely out-of-the-ground astilbe stalks. We got about halfway through the job before running out of mulch, and the other half remains on hold until we have the time (and the truck) to collect more. Cha-cha-cha.
After considering what edibles to plant this season, waiting
(and waiting, and waiting) for warmer weather, and sketching out what will go
where, on Saturday I dropped the year’s first veggie seeds into one of the
raised beds the kids helped my dad build last year. Into the freshly turned
soil, I carefully sowed snow peas and beet seeds and spring greens. Still to
come: green beans, carrots, squash, cucumbers, sungold tomatoes, maybe a row or
two of potatoes, a few onions. It may take me the next month to get everything
in, but it will happen. Eventually. Cha-cha-cha.
Last year, I grew two rows of zinnias between the snap peas and the bush beans in the big vegetable garden out back. This year, I think I may fill one of the smaller garden boxes in the side yard entirely with flowers – more zinnias and sunflowers and maybe some snapdragons. These, of course, we cannot eat. (Well, maybe the sunflower seeds, but we’ll likely leave those for the birds.) But they are nourishing in other, also important ways.
Through spring’s uncertain dance and into summer I’ll wait, hopeful, for the seeds to sprout, then for the stems to grow tall, and for the tightly furled buds to open. I don’t know what this dance is called – not a cha-cha or a waltz or a tango – but the choreography is pretty close to perfect.
Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay
appears as Meghan's May 13, 2021 Close to Home column in the Littleton