As I sit here, working on a new necklace—a short one of natural orange spondylus shell, I can’t help turning toward the window. It’s bright out there. The snow has all but disappeared, though large patches still linger even in late March. But I can finally see my raised beds.And being able to see them naturally leads me to realize that it’s time, or even past time, to get serious about what’s going in them. Except for the asparagus bed, I try to “rotate my crops” (and we are talking about five 8x4 boxes) every year.
Greens, meaning lettuce, spinach and arugula are givens. So are tomatoes. Last year I grew fingerling potatoes, and tried kale and chard. I also had success with beets and carrots. And I am very proud to announce that I grew my own garlic for the entire year. Some things I grow simply because they are fun and beautiful. Those are pole beans, scarlet runners, sunflowers, morning glories and edible flowers. They stay. I may trade beets for onions because I don’t really eat many beets. Last year I tried magda squash for cousa mahshi (a Middle Eastern stuffed squash recipe,) but I put them in a spot that turned out to be too wet. Consequently I will have to decide whether to move them or do something else.
Gardening is my latest adaptation. All my life I have had to adapt to my environment. I moved from home in California, to the East (Boston), to the Middle East, , to Southeast Asia, to South America, to here in the Northeast. So I have changed languages, climates, religions, food and general lifestyle every five or six years. Here, in Maine, people garden. And they don’t just garden, they GARDEN. It’s serious. In California, where everything grows all year long, people just plunk in their plants, build patios and pathways, and that’s it. But here, one has to know one’s micro-climates all over the garden, take soil tests, amend the soil, plan a color scheme for the May and June “show”, the midsummer “show”, and the fall “show”. (They are really called shows; I didn’t make that up.) The heights and bloom- times are all calculated in. People go on Garden Walks all summer long and several groups put them on. I found that I was so hopelessly behind in what obviously appeals to me very much, that I signed up for the Master Gardener course within a few years of moving here.
But of course there is always balance. My California sisters don’t even know what a soil test is, and they just go to the nursery to buy yellow flowers to compliment the house, while I am studying my books, and poring through seed catalogs and trying write, produce and direct a Three Act play in my garden. There is a tradeoff: Come about November, I’m inside making soup and reading novels, while they are out mowing the lawn, which grows fast, twelve months a year.