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Garden Lifestyle

It’s May, It’s May, the Merry Month of May!

Hurray it is May and Spring is bustin' out all over--wherever you live!

  • Fragrant lilacs perfume the whole yard--now is the time to candy them for confections throughout the year. Their enchanting fragrance can be captured in a cup of tea or a gelato infused with the flowers. 
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • This miniature lilac is right outside the backdoor, so it envelopes one with a pleasing fragrance whether coming or going.
  • I cover tiny seedlings with floating row cover to protect them from heavy spring rains, as well as grazing deer. I have reused this for a few years now and as you can see it is about time to get a new roll.
  • I fold the row cover back on nice days and let the seedlings feel the breeze and sun, weed in between the rows and re-cover in the evening.
  • Bright-green lettuce seedlings will be ready to harvest in the next 20 to 30 days. I can thin them now and use them as "microgreens".
  • Nasturtiums are in my salad garden for their leaves and flowers.
  • I can't ever seem to have enough cilantro.
  • It is important to keep the salad seedlings weeded. I will mulch them with wheat straw soon.
  • Just-tilled garden earth awaiting transplants. Since the soil was a bit wet, I am letting it dry out before planting. It smells delightful and feels so good to bare feet.
  • Common chives are budding up. Use them abundantly in salad dressings, with any vegetable, and in scrambled eggs, cheese spreads and butters.
  • Solomons seal with dew drops. I love this springtime perennial. Did you notice it in the arrangements in Westminster Abbey? Yes, I saw it in the base of the huge flower arrangements for the royal wedding! Hydrangea too--glad to see those Brits thinking green and seasonal. 
  • Be sure to keep your birdbaths full this time of year--the birds love a frolicking good splash!

Yesterday was the first of May, renowned as May Day, and it signals spring is officially here in my garden. This first day of May is fêted around the world as a holiday–more than any other day of the year–for many different reasons. Many countries celebrate this date as their Labor Day. On this day in 1886 in the U.S., labor unions went on strike rallying for an 8-hour workday. The day is synonymous with protest marches and political gatherings for humankind. It is a public holiday in the U.S.S.R.

Aside from rallies and labor movement, the first day of this month has been a celebration of the earth and the renewal of green-growing things for centuries around the globe.  Romans honored Flora, the goddess of flowers, with a festival. An annual event in Great Britain, villages set up a maypole decorated with flowers, greenery and ribbons to “bring in the May”. On the Celtic calendar, this day is a religious event known as Beltane and heralds the beginning of summer with bonfires, dancing and feasting. Though originally a pagan celebration, Germans observe the Christian feast day of St. Walpurgis. On the eve of this date, Walpurgisnacht, small trees are festooned with garlands and given as a symbol of love. In Hawaii, it is called Lei Day and commemorates the culture and history of these islands.

Whatever your celebration of choice might be, it is a time for rejoicing of the earth, the regeneration of life and the planting and tending of our gardens. It gives me great joy to walk about and see perennials, shrubs and trees putting forth new growth and flowering—the changes are visible daily. The earth, which I turned over a few weeks ago and sowed with seeds for a salad bed, has neat little rows of seedlings popping up in every shade of green. These are the delights of the gardener. I am down on my knees inspecting the progress, weeding and transplanting. It is a challenge for me to be indoors, here writing at the computer. Outside, mother nature is in her glory, teeming with life.

I thrill at the site of dew drops on leaves; the emerging of leaves and swell of flower buds; the bluebirds flying to and fro while building their nests; the doves and sparrows fighting over who gets to splash in the birdbath next; and seeing the first swallowtail and hummingbird of the season. I delight in hearing the peepers down in the woods by the river each evening; the constant birdsong from dawn until dusk; or the sound of spring rain hitting the windows. Besides the dazzling visuals and cheerful cacophony of sounds, my olfactory senses are constantly besieged by the ever-changing seasonal smells. I love the smell of earthworms rising up when it rains; the fragrance of lilacs at the backdoor and the violets in the grass; the aroma of freshly mown grass; and most of all the scent of deep, rich earth when the garden soil has been just dug or newly turned. 

These are the pleasures of the season–so get outdoors and don’t miss them–savor and celebrate!

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