March 12: The clocks sprang ahead this morning, and, dare I say it, it feels as if the second snowiest winter on record in Vermont could be starting to fade — with a rush of melting snow, flooded fields, and the inexorable brightening of days.
The raised beds for vegetables are tentatively emerging while the perennial and shade borders still lie beneath a two foot blanket of snow. There’s new dampness in the basement. My maple syrup friends have started to boil (a week late). And yesterday I planted the first seeds for this year’s garden: English Lavender, Radicchio, Fennel, Bok Choi, Artichokes, Thai hot peppers and several varieties of Rosemary.
I wanted to plant seeds a week ago, but the seeds and trays were in the potting room behind the studio, and we were in a white out… twenty four inches of snow, winds and drifts. Impossible to get out back.
The thought of lusty, earthy Thai hot peppers temporarily nestled next to proper English lavender makes me smile. If vegetables and herbs have personalities (and don’t you think they might?), how will these two relate to each other?
Apparently Rosemary will prove recalcitrant. Barbara, who gardens two miles away, and Susan, who grows herbs in Lincoln (besides managing an enormous flock of chickens), say the Rosemary won’t take. But why not try? My sense is that if I can get it to grow from seed, the flavor will be more mine: which is to say, the seeds grown in local soil — my mix — and watered with local water. Will it taste different? It might.
And that is the story every year: it might. My garden constantly changes. I plant many varieties of vegetables and perennials, take notes, keep the ones that work, don’t grow the failures again, try new ones. I move the varieties around in a rotation that has as much to do with patterns of color and texture as searching out the sunniest spots and then rotating crops like tomatoes and peas on a schedule. This year, I will cover two of the beds with hoops and covers and see if I can’t get a head start by putting some of the plants into the ground earlier.
The seed trays, covered with saran wrap, sit next to the wood stove, labels carefully lettered, dates and seed companies duly noted. I sorted tools yesterday, and filed away old seed packets (they probably aren’t viable, but it feels wrong to throw them out). I plan to go to the Intervale this week in search of other seeds, and more seed trays. It would be an achievement to buy no flats of plants this year — start the whole garden from seed.
We are moving from the Walter Mitty season of gardening (that is, sit in an armchair by the fire in January, armed with seed catalogues and garden books, desperate for a flash of green and color, dreaming about everything the garden could be) to the season of potential. Seed trays are but miniscule plots of soil from which entire gardens grow.
What an amazing possibility!