Every year we get all the way to Mother’s Day, the day I traditionally plant my little garden plots, and I kick myself for not having started some of my veggies from seed. I regret having not gotten cold weather veggies like peas and lettuce into the ground earlier. Every year I say the same thing, “I don’t know what I’m doing, and yet I persist in attempting this gardening thing anyway.”

This year, though, I did some remembering! At Wegman’s on Sunday, I grabbed a seed-starter greenhouse and had the kids help me pick out some seed packets. They picked radishes, pinto beans, sugar snap peas,green onions, carrots and these gorgeous purple tomatillos. I added arugula, dill, thyme, lavender and sage. Eventually I’ll get some tomato and cucumber plants, and probably some basil and cilantro, too.  I knew that this week was supposed to be mild, but honestly, when I walked outside today with a cup of coffee in my hand after gathering the kids from school, I was astonished by exactly how beautiful it was and I ended up doing a bunch of garden clearing and prep that I hadn’t planned to do today.

I started to rake out the tire garden and found spring onions growing happily! When did they come up?

In the cinder block garden, a similar discovery: overwintered Swiss Chard! I didn’t get much out of this last year, so this was really a surprising find. I have been assured that yes, it will keep growing. I love chard. This makes me happy.

Josephine helped me sow radish, arugula, carrot and pea seeds directly into the earth, and the rest of the seeds into the greenhouse peat pots.

Nothing but promise...

on the sunny sill

She seemed as delighted with her hands in the dirt as I was. And I was really and truly delighted. I am always surprised, oddly, by just how much I love gardening. This is probably because I don’t seem to be very good at it! Last year, out of maybe ten or eleven crops, we were really only able to harvest the tomatoes, the herbs and, early, a little lettuce. Everything else either never took or took off into weird rot.

Except, it seems, the onions and the chard! But I take no credit for either thing. Nor do I take credit for the mint that comes back every year or the parsley that also seems to be un-killable.

parsley--one of my favorite herbs

I keep telling myself that I should either get a garden buddy or read a book or…something. But then again I find the trial and error really satisfying. I love the combination of planning and anticipation that happens every spring: This is what I want. Will it happen or not?

I also spent some time re-potting most of my poor, root-bound houseplants. This is a thing I used to be good at: tending. But after my kids were born, I needed every ounce of tending energy to go to them, and what little that was left over, to me and Paul. Most of my plants died. Exhaustion overshadowed my guilt, but the guilt was still and always there. We try to teach our kids to value life–all life–and I really blew it there for a while with my leafy companions.  So it felt especially good today to loosen their root balls and gently scooch them into their new, roomier homes, tucking them in with good, hearty potting mix and water. Sounds cozy, no?

new digs!

Just like last year, I was hoping to get good news from the MacDowell Colony about a summer residency, and, just  like last year, I will instead be seeking alternate getaway possibilities so I can put in some undisturbed writing hours. (I do wonder what it will take to get back into MacDowell Colony. Magical place, I should be grateful to have had even one shot, I know…) Disappointed, but unworried. I’ll figure something out.

I like this idea of “overwintering.” I feel like that’s what I’ve done, too. Come through a winter that, while mild in a meteorological sense, was harsh and intemperate in certain personal and professional ways. I don’t feel as robust as onions just yet–especially because I am still enduring a bout of bronchitis–but it’ll come with the sun, I’m sure.

2 thoughts on “Overwintered

  1. Dianne gardner says:

    Please get a bag of compost to add to anything that you plant, especially directly into the earth. Actually many bags. PA is a big mushroom growing state, not sure where, but spent mushroom soil is wonderful for the garden, lots of nitrogen and minerals that make plants grow gloriously.

    • Sheila Squillante says:

      Dianne, you can be my garden buddy! Yes, compost. I shall get some right away. (I have a little of my own, but it’s not enough for all the planting.)

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