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Damn, but those tomatoes got big while I was away. I left Saturday and came back today, and good grief. I called Eric Monday and had him water and rotate all my seedlings, and they seem to have survived. I’ve got Mexican sunflowers and tarragon and chamomile and Genovese basil coming up; the rest are still dormant but I’m reasonably hopeful. And the pear tree has flowered! And those tulips that I moved from the crowded spot by the driveway to the front flower bed last year turn out to be yellow! How nice it is to come home in the spring.

Cotyledons are a problem. That is, they are outdoors. Inside, they’re unambiguously delightful: they mean that I’ve managed to keep a pot watered long enough for seeds to sprout. Outside, though, they are (except in a few cases, like brassicas) far too similar to each other to be helpful. Is this the flower I planted or a weed I didn’t? Can I pull it now while it’s young and I’m here, or will I be pulling my precious herbs instead?

It was easy to pull the grass seed in the onion bed because I knew I hadn’t planted the onions that thickly. But the new sprouts in the parsley bed are problematic. There are a lot of them, but then I planted a lot, and by broadcasting, so there are no telltale lines as there are in the beet bed (or would be, if any had come up). I’ll just have to wait. Which is okay, I guess, but it seems a pity that the one time I want to weed I have to stay my hand.

Six things started indoors today: two kinds of basil (same as last year, Mrs. Burns’ Lemon and Genovese), mullein, horehound, German chamomile, and American skullcap. You’d think that with a limited attention span I’d stick to food crops, but apparently not. I turn out to have this thing for perennial herbs. I love the way the wormwood and hyssop and chives and feverfew have greened upthe herb garden this spring without my having to do anything.

I have more herbs to start, all culinary–tarragon, cumin, summer savory, catmint (and more parsley, if the outdoor stuff doesn’t come up). I may or may not start some cucumbers and melons indoors–we’ll see how I feel about it in a couple of weeks. I do need to start more cotton: I’m growing it in pots anyway, since I know from last year I’ll need to bring it in at the end of the season, so I might as well start it now.

It’s supposed to rain until Thursday. Here’s hoping it perks up the carrots and lettuce and convinces them to come above ground. I’ll have to see whether the onions got washed away, too, and how the weeds are coming along. The weeds seem to be doughtier this year than last…I wonder if that’s because I’m already dreading doing it or because I was just really bad about weeding last year. I sense a potentially ever-escalating problem here. I guess that’s the problem with a cyclical hobby like this: the same issues crop up, year after year. Luckily, so do the same charms: the blooms below the pear tree, the buds on the pear and peach trees, the vivid blueness of the pulmonaria, the valiant ever-spreading raspberry suckers. (Theoretically this last is a problem rather than a charm, but I didn’t get nearly enough raspberries last year.)

The potatoes are planted. I dug out the leeks left over from last year first, while Eric applied a patch on the garage roof with tar and paper and curses when the wind picked up and he realized he needed to weigh the paper down. I saved a few of the leeks for cooking but put most of them in the compost pile. I left a few for seed. I’m not going to grow them this year, since I just didn’t use them last year and I’m going light on the growing, but I might plant them again next year–or they might be good for trading.

The carrots and onions have not come up at all. Most of my assorted greens have, except for the lettuce and spinach. No sign of the parsley, but that’s not surprising. No sign of the kale or the beets. I may try replanting, now that it’s a bit warmer and we’re anticipating more rain…or I may not. I must get some carrots growing, but I may decide the rest are too much work. I decided not to do peas this year–cooking them doesn’t sound good and eating them raw sounds like too much work, especially since my trellis is broken.

Eric told me I should just plan on growing less this year, and that’s what I’m doing. Luckily all my tomato plants and a few of my peppers plants are doing nicely in the window…and that future flat of vegetables will go a long way toward hiding my seed-starting inadequacies. I do have a couple of dirt-filled cartons ready for starting basil and maybe some parsley. In a couple of weeks I’ll start some cotton, because I think it’s neat, and maybe some flowers if I can be bothered, and everything else will go directly into the ground. I’m very glad I started a bunch of perennial herbs last year because once you take those off last year’s planting list (which is still taped up to my wall and is what I’m using for this year) there isn’t much that really needs starting early–which suits me perfectly.

On the less-lazy side, we went to the farmer’s market today for the first time this spring. We went for onions because Eric was making a meatloaf for dinner. We encountered some friends who told us one of the vendors had home-grown spinach and the honey lady made a killer honey-mustard that would make fantastic dressing if she hadn’t run out of it, and went home with winter spinach and strawberries (dunno if they were local, didn’t ask; they were delicious and firm and only two had a bad spot anywhere) to combine with pecans and Craisins to make a beautiful salad. A few early plant vendors were there, and I’m going to go back soon for strawberry plants, since my strawberry bed has a few bald spots. I foresee us spending a lot of money at the farmer’s market this year. My new lazy-gardening plans will still supply us with the mainstays of summer–parsley and tomatoes and dill and peppers and carrots, with luck, strawberries and raspberries–but there will be holes to fill.

Dallas was very, very green. A Crayola spring green almost, different from the more gradual, subdued greening-up that’s been going on around here. I was glad to get home from my trip, glad that my tomatoes had sprouted true leaves and hadn’t parched (I didn’t even ask Eric to water them; the outcome would have been the same anyhow), sad that I would still have to wait for green trees and flower buds in my part of the country.

I got a late birthday present from the mothers, a set of ten plastic cones for putting over plants, a kneeling pad, and a bunch of plant labels and Velcro for tying. I also got asked by my stepsister-in-law to take part in a fundraiser by a local nursery: pay a special price for flats of flowers or vegetables now and go pick them up in May. I signed up for a flat of 18 annuals or vegetables for $12. That’s hard to beat, and my peppers and eggplants mostly aren’t coming up so I may need them (and the money situation isn’t looking as bad as I was afraid it would, though we’ll see how it goes when we get the bill for the second ultrasound). At some point I really need to get out and see what’s happened with those seeds I planted, and get myself back into the it’s-time-to-garden mood.

We have achieved…um…some kind of sprout in the garden. Rocket or komatsuna, I think. I partitioned a particular part of the herb garden into four sections, one for each kind of green, and one of the four has started coming up, and I can’t be bothered to run downstairs to get my sketch to figure out which it is.

Yesterday would have been a great day for working in the garden, but my dad was around and we did house repair-type work instead (which turned out to include him stepping on the patch where the sprouts are, but they’re so small they don’t seem to have been damaged). So the potatoes remain unplanted. I’ll try to get to them next weekend; it’s raining and lousy the next few days, plus I won’t be around; I’m on a business trip to Chicago and then to Dallas. (I must go water the plants, since Eric won’t do it while I’m gone.) Maybe by the time I get back more sprouts will have appeared, or at least I’ll have looked up what kind I’ve got.

My back hurts a little from my first real garden-related exercise of the year. I dragged Eric outside this evening to help me plant things–”You can just write down what I’m planting where,” I told him, which would honestly have been a help since taking the gloves (I’m not supposed to actually touch the soil for fear of toxoplasmosis, which can cross the placental barrier, though I expect that if it’s in the soil here I’ve already gotten it) on and off to manipulate the paper and pencil is a pain. I brought seeds and trowel and kneeling pad out to the garden and Eric said, “Look at all the branches on that tree over there! They need to come off,” and marched off to get the pruners. I never did get his help. However, he got rid of all the dead branches from the tree and tore down a bunch of Virginia Creeper and last year’s bindweed (which he persists in calling morning glory) and trimmed the branches from the neighbor’s annoying forsythia bushes that intrude into the garden, so I call it fair.

I planted Bernie’s Red and Rossa di Milano onion seeds and Danvers 126 and Big Top carrot seeds and the garlic bulbils and walking onions and broccoli (which aren’t going to do well at all, I predict) and one large Big Top carrot I saved for seed. I noticed to my delight that the parsnips I left in the ground are coming up; I dug one up to try eating (man, those things get huge!) and left the other three. I noticed to my horror that the back corner of the garden has been sprinkled with grass seed. Did I mention that the neighbors have been absolved of blame in the tree-mangling incident? Apparently the city demanded access to their backyard to put in a new sewer line to help with the flooding that had been going on in everybody’s basements. They apologized to me about the fence and railed about how the city people had imperiled their lovely willow (it’s doing fine now). I guess the grass seed was a neighborly gesture as well, but all I could think when I saw it was “I wonder if I can vacuum that up before it rains.” I’ve spent the last two years trying to get grass out of that part of the yard, damn it. I heard the rain start, so I suppose it’s too late. I hope they will not think me too rude if I try to get rid of it and plant sunflowers instead. Luckily I’m capable of weeding in the spring and despite the backache I really enjoyed myself today, so when it stops raining in a week or so I’ll go out and see what I can do.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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