Kitchen Gardening

The Glories of Spring in the Garden

This is a thrilling time of year for gardeners.

Spring is the best time for salad greens--we eat them everyday with gusto! Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

This is a thrilling time of year for gardeners. Each day we delight in the plants around us–what is popping up, producing food, budding, then flowering–not to mention what we are sowing and transplanting baby seedlings. It is both a relief and great joy to finally have our hands in the earth and have to scrub the dirt from our hands and tools. Now, if only the rain would give us a break, so I can get back out there!…

It has been raining for over a week here in Maryland. I am thankful for the rain and the earth rejoices with the big old trees feeling deeply hydrated. I am happy that the garden has been watered well, however, now the earth is saturated and it is not good to walk in the garden. Flash flood warnings have been in effect for days and there is more rain in the forecast. It is easy to pull weeds when the soil is moist, though it is important to knock all the dirt off of the roots back into the hole. All of the transplants are well watered in, though some things are looking just a bit droopy–in need of sun. The basil is actually pouting.

The slugs are having a hayday and are fat. I have been picking them off of the basil and lettuces–the first signs of slugs are holes in the leaves, and of course the shiny slug trails. I bought diatomaceous earth to sprinkle around the plants, though the rain washes it away and I will reapply when there is a break in the weather. I am also crushing eggs shells and using coffee grounds to deter the slimy pests.

I am having a problem with cutworms for the first time. There are perils to being a traveling gardener. In preparation for 2019 herb of the year, Agastache, I planted 12 different varieties before I hit the road a few weeks ago. When I returned, four plants remained. The leaves were lying there and the whole plant seemed to have vanished–so I know it wasn’t rabbit, groundhog or deer since they eat the leaves, generally leaving the nub of a stem. So I read about cutworms and sprinkled the diatomaceous earth around them and made cardboard collars for the plants in that area of the garden. Also, at the recommendation of my gardening friend, Tina Marie Wilcox, I used an old-time folk practice of sticking a long nail alongside the stem of each plant in danger. Supposedly the cutworm will have a hardtime cutting through a nail–I sure hope so!

Though there are challenges, pests and perils in the garden, there are many more glories. The fragrant honey locust is in bloom and the rain has caused it to lose most of its petals; I’ve watched as they fluttered down like snowflakes and now the deck and grass are littered with petals–it looks like snow. The azaleas are laden and perfume the air and the dogwoods are just about finished blooming. The birdsong awakes me each morning–they flutter and feed all day busy keeping their broods fed–and their evening song is a time of peace and calm each evening. The peepers surround the house in all of the trees. The other night when it was thundering and lightening and pouring rain, there were two frogs suctioned on the outside of the glass door. The pink and yellow Rosy Maple Moths are already hanging on the screen door, pastel decorations that stay there for weeks.

The rhubarb has bloomed and the comfrey is the biggest that I have ever seen–it is as tall as me! The garlic and onions are standing tall; the garlic was mulched with straw back in the fall, the onions need weeding and mulching as soon as the rain subsides and I can get back into the garden. Potatoes are healthy and green and over a foot tall already. There is nothing like going out and picking fresh, homegrown salad greens, bringing them in to wash, and eating a great big salad. I have lettuces and greens of every shape and color to dine upon, with more coming along. I always add a handful of garden weeds–right now, I am enjoying violet leaves, chickweed and dandelion greens and flowers in my salad bowl. There is nothing like spring salads–delicious and nutritious at the same time.

Since the rain splashes soil up on the underside of the leaves of the salad greens, they need to be washed carefully–sometimes a few times to get the grit off. I give them a rinse in my salad spinner basket when I bring them into the kitchen. Then I place them in the bowl of the spinner and add a few tablespoons of vinegar and fill it with cold water. The vinegar helps the grit fall to the bottom of the bowl. Remove the leaves back to the basket and discard the water (I water plants with it). Give them another rinse if need be and then spin dry.

It is a wondrous scenario out there in the garden and I revel in it daily. As soon as it dries out a bit, it will be time to plant the tomatoes and chile peppers and then summer is right around the corner. What are your favorite garden events happening now?


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