Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Second Spring

Hot on the heels (or is that, coldly nipping at the heels?) of First Spring, comes the mayhem of Second Spring. Clear days approaching warm followed by snow that plays mayhem with morning commutes only to disappear by lunch. At the greenstead, this time requires constant motion combined with a focus on the long term, instantaneous reaction paired with faith in the long slow progression of earth in her orbit. 

This year, Second Spring was Nettle Spring, early March madness devoted to snapping tender tips as nettles push up from the leaves. Already, these plants are stretching, gathering up urticaceousness sufficient to keep the tender-skinned at bay through summer. Only about a week  separates the hidden in humus from the lanky "Howdy, you're a might late ain't ya?" wave of the stinging nettle, but this year I managed to gather a couple big grocery bags full and freeze them for later. To get more this year, I'll need to head up, following Nettle Spring into the lagging hills.

But here at the greenstead, Second Spring gives the snowdrops a rest while the daffodils begin opening. Grass grows rank, berries black and blue loose leaves from huddled buds. The wild greens get a head start on the planted ones; some say this is weeds getting the upper hand, but I see it as first course of the long garden feast.

But there is planting to be done in Second Spring, especially successive sowings of spinach, broadcasts of poppies, rills of radishes, pokings of peaseeds, and all the other cold spring crops. Sow early, sow often. If round one succumbs, the next will fill in, but if it succeeds, I get to eat early. I plant too soon because it just may pay off, books and master gardening 'wisdom' be damned. 

 There's still time in the prequinox to make some last minute moves: take those blueberries languishing under the hazelnut and put them where they stand a chance. Gather up that rhubarb from the not-quite-right spot before its leaves turn from pale crinkly February scrotums to stalks aroused by full-on Spring.

A little weeding this early (whether it yield a meal or not) is a good bet. Dandelions plucked easily with small roots in moist soil will never be this cooperative again. Grasses can even be manageable. It's time to decide where you want to let blackberries roam, and where you will do battle. A minute of Second Spring becomes an hour of Summer. 

In truth, Second Spring is already over. Most of the perennials are already putting on growth. Firework bursts of flax have exploded everywhere, valerian and lupines remind me they are not dead yet, emerging from the grave. It'll be too late to plant early things soon (or will it? I push the boundaries in both directions, because you never know when we'll get one of those everlasting springs), and there are still those clean-up jobs lingering from First Spring procrastination. I observe with a mixture of anticipation and franticism that the soil is warming, that dry days arrive more often,...and I rush.

But not so much that I cannot pause to soak in sun that actually has some warmth. Not so frenetic that there is not time to listen to the varied thrushes with the mellow substrate to a growing list of songbird virtuosos inhabiting the Indian Creek watershed. With each new Spring, new levels of beauty and bliss, the kiss of the sun awakening passions from chlorophyllic cells to the sparrows nesting in the birdhouse by the door.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cutouts, Or the Sunken Raised Bed

In that interim between freezing and foliating, I tend to engage in a campaign of expanding cultivated area. Out comes the flat-bladed spade, and back go the grassy margins. Beds expand, the ground still wet and soft enough to dig and shake soil from grass-roots, dandelions readily separated from matrix. Then, I rake the dirt into a raised bed, which usually rises no higher than the surrounding grass, the persistent mockingly unproductive remnant. There are no wooden or masonry edges, just a low ziggurat slouching in a cutout of the lawn.

The bed is soil mixed up bottom to top so any remaining weeds lay dispersed and unrooted, easy to pluck out later. Seeds in, weeds out, so goes the next few days. The weeding continues: pluckings of non-productive obviocracy, cullings of non-crops, ferreting out of sneakerweeds. The seeds sprout and flourish. 

Sandy soil makes this easy. No clay-clung weed-root balls propagating. Easy extraction. 

My hope is that unimpeded root-foods will grow large here, that cultivars will flourish into the weed-freed spaces. We'll see...Even the weeds that may emerge are better eating than the pathetic lawn that preceded them...