I started seeds a little later than usual this year. Even though I have had some time off from work, I got more than a little busy over the winter, and the days and weeks snuck by me. Suddenly it was mid-March.
My seed-starting is very low tech. Tinfoil trays filled with potting soil, covered in plastic wrap. I don’t really need grow lights, as the sun through the living room picture window is intense, even blinding sometimes. I don’t rush – a tray or two a day until the bench is full, and then I come up with creative ways to plant even more, moving tables and other surfaces under windows until there’s no space left.
We gardening addicts are an odd bunch. Presented with seeds and soil, we begin to think, like dirt-mad scientists, that anything is possible.
Last year, my neighbor and I expanded the existing garden space with the help of her father and his rototiller, which has been going strong since 1971. It was a productive 18′ (ish) x 30′ (ish) space but by the time we got a fence up, it was a mad rush to plant, and the garden was messy and barely navigable. This year we sat down over tea to discuss how to create a true potager garden with paths and beds, and ensure we plant the right quantities of what we really need.
When I moved, I had no idea that in addition to the wonderful home, I would be surrounded by wonderful neighbors. In particular, my closest neighbors have become friends, co-chicken parents, and garden conspirators. Melissa and Jay are some of the best magic I have found here on the Fairy Hill. Always game for a new project, when it comes to gardens we have aligned interests – my land gets more sun, so it is the natural location for a large garden space, and many hands make light work. Also, we love the garden produce equally, and are in general agreement that there can never be too many Sungold tomatoes or zucchini.
You can debate me on the zucchini, but I have yet to grow tired of it, sliced and baked with parmesan and cracked pepper, sauteed as noodles with homemade pesto and chicken, or grilled with balsamic vinegar on a hot summer night. Zucchini can get a bad rap, but it is easy to grow, prolific, and tasty.
A potager garden is an ornamental vegetable, herb and flower garden. Around since Medieval times, it centers primarily around food production, with edible florals and a cutting garden often tossed in. Our garden was going to be a loose mimic of that designed by Carolyn Roehm.
The outlines will be 48×36, with 2 brick-lined 14×14 garden beds laid out in the square-foot method. Surrounded by 2 1/2 foot wood mulch paths, rows for vegetables and flowers, and with hollyhocks and kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate joining the vining vegetables, such as beans and cucumbers along the fencing, reinforced with wire to keep out wild bunnies, squirrels and other visitors. We will be bringing in compost to fortify the soil, and lay weed cloth down to ensure that we don’t need to spend every weekend fighting unwelcome guests. It will all be painted slate grey, as the house someday will be. This is a permanent structure, a year’s effort for a lifetime of productivity.
It’s hard to imagine that the snow will melt and the seeds will grow, with the snow still blanketing the ground, but to garden is to have faith that the cold and darkness will someday depart, and the warmth and sunshine will return. Because it always does.