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I bought my first hoe yesterday. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been gardening for three years without a hoe. The side of a rake works okay, you know? Except that maybe a hoe would have helped avoid the weedpocalypse I’m facing. So I bought one. Also a packet of peas, late but just in case, and some onion sets because I confidently expect the seeds I started not to come up.

I also planted potatoes and onion sets and turnips and broad beans, and cleaned up the strawberry beds. Those strawberries were choked by weeds last year (also parsley, which technically counted as a weed since I didn’t want it where it was–parsnip is going to be the same way this year) but still managed to put out tons of runners. I ended up digging up all the strawberries (all the ones I could find, anyway), clearing away the weeds, regrading the bed, and replanting the strawberries. And adding mulch. It’s from the pile of grass clippings from last year, because the bag of actual mulch I bought last year and left out for the winter had strange orange filaments in it and I was suspicious of them. But I’m pretty sure that even if the orange filaments are a new killer fungus that destroys vegetation as we know it, those strawberry plants will keep on trucking.

“It’s too much trouble to take her outside,” I told Eric, dumping Chloe on the bed beside him. “I’d have to get the blanket and her toys out, plus her, plus the gardening stuff.”

“Okay,” he said sleepily.

“So you’re watching her,” I concluded. Actually I ended up putting her in her crib with toys so he could sleep a few more minutes. But I did end up outside without the baby and with my gloves and spade and seeds. The second pea trellis is up now, and the peas planted (I didn’t buy any, but I had a row’s worth of Pioneer shelling peas from two years ago that I’m thinking should be fine). Also spinach, and kale, and komatsuma, and two kinds of carrots and two kinds of beets. I forget every year just how wonderful it is to be out in the freshly-dug soil with seeds and a spade, burying promises under the earth.

I went inside when it got dark. If it hadn’t I might still be out there, digging and planting and arranging. (What is gardening like above the Arctic Circle?) I felt kind of bad for spending part of the few hours I have with my family every night out in the garden by myself; but I felt great having done it, and great being able to anticipate feeding my family in a couple of months with what I did tonight.

My pea trellis went up today. Well, one of them. There are going to be two, but Eric was napping and Chloe was sitting in her stroller watching me, and she ran out of yogurt melts. So only one is up–but it should be simple to get the other up and plant peas as soon as I’ve bought some. I have Golden Sweets but I want shelling peas, because Chloe likes them and you can’t buy frozen ones that don’t have salt or sugar or both added.

It was very pleasant to go out and dig up the dirt and see all the worms, though not as pleasant to see all the weed seeds, and to get warm from exercise and anticipate green things growing. It was also very pleasant to finally get a start on the brick path I’ve been meaning to put into the herb garden for over a year now. It means a lot of exercise–as the entire garden this year will–but I can use a lot of exercise.

I feel ambivalent about putting up a pea trellis every year, though. And a bean trellis/tepee. Every year I’ve put them up and the weather and my fall cleanup has torn them down. In a way I’d like to have a permanent structure up, something I don’t have to plan for and rig up every year, something I can just rake around and plant under and be done. But then there’s the whole rotating crops thing, and having the same garden every year would probably get boring anyway. Also, I haven’t built one I like enough to keep up forever.

Inside, my seeds are growing. I did start them, and the rocket, choy sum, marigolds, leeks, scallions, and spinach are up. I meant to write about it, but the days slipped by, as they do so often now. I’m going to try to keep at the garden, even when I don’t keep at the blog. Like I said, I can use the exercise, and Chloe can use the fresh air, and we all can use the produce.

It was nearly fifty degrees today. I went to the store with a light coat and could have gone without one. If my yard weren’t still covered in snow, I think I would have had to do some work.

It’s been a long, slow, gray, sedentary winter, and I’m waiting for it to end. Today was a very welcome harbinger of spring. I’m still not chomping at the bit to get going on all the weeding and digging I’m going to have to do, but I do think it’ll be good for me. And it will be very nice to grow things again. We went to Home Depot today and I got a plastic “greenhouse” tray with Jiffy pots for starting seeds. Yes, I’m letting the side down by not rolling my own, but it was only five dollars for the tray plus fifty pots, and this makes it much more likely that I’ll actually do the seed-starting. And with a built-in greenhouse to keep them moist I might have a shot at successfully starting peppers and eggplant, which excites me. And it was only five dollars.

I think I’ve mentioned (can’t remember, it’s been, uh, a long time) that we’re trying to move this year, and so this year’s garden will be partly for show. I still think having a working vegetable garden will be a selling point, but it has to be a pretty garden. So my focus this year will be not on cramming as much growing into the ground as possible, but on correct spacing, enough weeding and mulching and pruning, and all those things I’ve known I should be doing but haven’t been able to bring myself to care for. It should be an interesting change of focus.

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

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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