it's not st. paddy's day, but at least the peas are in

According to my mother, my grandmother planted her peas on St. Paddy’s day. That was over a month ago, and I can assure you that there was nothing going into the earth here in Connecticut then. The only thing you could do that was remotely green, was drink green beer and look out the window at the dwindling snow piles.

like opening day, just no baseball

Finally, the snow is gone. It stuck around a long time, in part because there was so darn much of it this winter, but also because it’s been a very cold spring. Even today, which held promise for sunny and sixties, was not that warm and, frankly, not that sunny. But, never mind, I had my mind set on today being opening day at the garden.  Brendan, my “go-to” starter  when it comes to gardening, was here for a garden work day, and we were going to whip that sad heap of winter leaves into a real garden.

Joe DiMaggio said of baseball’s opening day, “You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” That pretty well says it for opening day in the garden — after a long, cold winter, it’s like a party, except with dirt and seeds instead of cake and ice cream. And, unlike baseball, whose fortunes are tossed on whimsy, you can be sure that something wonderful does happen in your garden! You breathe some fresh air, hopefully enjoy a bit of sunshine, and savor the satisfaction of preparing that rich earth. Just that much can be good enough; now add to it the potential of little green shoots peeking out in a week or so — and the hope of fresh greens and other vegetables in the future.

or is it really spring training

spinach on right, planted last fall

spinach on right, planted last fall

As I explore this metaphor, it seems to me that the gardening that we do in March and April is really more like spring training — at least here in the northeast. We’re warming up our gardening muscles in preparation for the summer league, which is still more than a month away. We’re starting only the winter league vegetables now. Those cold-hearty, not-so-flashy, utility players like peas, spinach and other lettuces, potatoes, beets, and such. If you’ve been tending your winter garden under the cold frame, you may have some of these players already warmed up and practically ready to bat. Look at the picture of the spinach that I planted last fall in my cold frames. They had just sprouted before the weather turned too cold, and have been buried under several feet of snow all winter. It’s really amazing because the weight of the record-breaking snowfall shattered the glass lights.  The plants were not protected very well and some were pinned under the glass.

On the left side of the cold frame, I’ve planted arugula and salad bowl lettuce. Both of these seeds are very happy to germinate in cool weather. In the garden proper, we planted snow peas, two types of potatoes, garlic, beets, and radishes.

still in training

tomatoes in training -- getting a little fresh air

Memorial Day is really Opening Day in Connecticut. That’s when the summer garden stars like tomatoes, beans, corn, and peppers, will make their debut. They need warm soil, warm air, warm nights — you get the picture. Until then, they are still sitting on the bench. Here are some of the plants that I started from seed in January. I’ve repotted them several times, and some are quite tall. I’ve just started to condition them: taking them outside for short periods to get a little fresh air and sunshine — not too much of either. Like a pitcher’s arm, they need to warm up and get into condition before they can withstand a full day’s sunshine without sunburn or strain.

the log

Now’s the time to start the log for the year. Just like New Year’s resolutions, I vow to maintain and learn from my garden log each year. I’ll be depending upon all of you to keep me on task this season!