Last week's mini heat-wave had me itching to be out in the garden and I considered myself lucky that, despite all the running around that seemed to piled on my schedule, I managed to get out for the better part of a couple of days before the weather turned cool, and scheduling demands once again interfered.
Now, there is much to do out in my neglected patch of earth: flower beds that need to be cleaned out and reclaimed, trampled mud around constructions sites, a brown and overgrown front yard; but I did not attend to any of these.
Instead I wandered down to the old vegetable garden, abandoned since the end of the season in 2006. When I tried to open the gate, a task which took considerable effort as it was entwined with dead vines and rasberry canes, this is the view that greeeted me:
I was overwhelmed. I sat down on the clam bucket I used for gathering weeds and garden detritus and generally considered if I really wanted to tackle this job. I almost turned away.
I had considered abandoning the vegetable garden, just hiring someone to rip out the fence and come in with a back hoe and turn it all back into level ground and patchy lawn. I am not by nature a gardener, although when I am gardening, I am fully engaged in the activity. I will not live in this house forever. If and when I move I may not want a large yard and there are plenty of other things here that need attention. Growing vegetables should be the least of my priorities.
And yet. When the sun came out and the temperatures became balmy, I immediately started thinking about getting my hands in the dirt. But I wasn't thinking about growing flowers, much as I love them. I was thinking about vegetables; specifically, I was thinking about peas. One of the great joys of Spring for me is waiting for the snow to melt off the vegetable garden, which is usually the last part of the yard to hold on to the snow, a little plot of property that is cold in the winter while also being one of the hottest, sunniest patches of the yard in summer. Then, as soon as the snow is gone and the ground is dry enough to work I would plant peas.
I usually try to get my peas in by Saint Patrick's day, my own little personal celebration of green. I didn't make it this year, but I did have them planted by the weekend. Peas don't mind frost or even snow. If the weather is unusually cold they take a little longer to grow, if it is mild I get to harvest them a little faster. There is nothing like the early pea crop, in mid to late May. And there is nothing quite like peas eaten within an hour of being removed from the vine.
I still have to clean out the flower beds. I will get that done in the next week or so, even though it is colder now. But I am thrilled by the promise of peas. I plant flower beds and landscape the yard because I am picky about how it looks, and I don't want the same over-used cookie cutter yard that I see everywhere around me. I garden because I love art and form and color, not really because I love to garden. I want my yard to be an expression of this love, not to look like every nice yard in the neighborhood. I am also far more willing to live with my own idiosyncrasies and failures than I am willing to accept mundane mediocrity.
I plant vegetables however because I obsess about food. I love to cook. I love to eat. I care about the raw ingredients that appear on our table. When I started gardening, farm stands were fewer and further between and there was no weekend farmer's market. I don't need to grow as much now, I can easily buy what I need in season. But I can't buy peas right off the vine. I can't usually buy peas in May. Most of the peas come in during June, and if we have a cold spring my peas come in in June as well. But if we have a hot spell in May or June, and this is common, the peas are worse for it. It is worth the risk to me, to savor those few precious spring peas.
It took me one day just to clear out the path and dig up branches and roots in one small 5' x5' planting bed. It took me another day to double dig that bed, and amend the soil and get it ready for planting. After all that, putting in the peas was easy. It doesn't look like much, but it felt like such an accomplishment. Now I just have to wait for them to sprout.
Oh, and I have to clean out the rest of the garden. I need to clear some space for Fava Beans next. And work on the flower beds as well.