We’re harvesting! Arugula, spinach, mustard greens, many varieties of lettuce and radishes for copious delicious salads.We’ve also been sauteeing a lot of baby kale and gorgeous mustard greens. Everyone: grow mustard greens! Especially green wave- they are handsome, hardy, bolt resistant and bug resistant and they are spicy, nutrient dense and so easy. Grow them in a container if you don’t have a plot. Sautee with garlic, fresh ginger and sesame oil. Or shallots and celery and olive oil. Eat bitter, sour, hot and astringent greens! Phytonutrients abound! This recent NY Times article by Jo Robinson whose new book on the subject looks intriguing, speaks to the higher nutritional content in our plant choices before the advent of farming some 10,000 years ago when we hunted and foraged for sustenance. Wild plants such as dandelion greens and arugula have high levels of glucosinolates and cancer fighting compounds.
This Saturday afternoon I purchased seedlings from our friend’s one-woman-show organic farm. When I got there she and her employee, enjoying his first day on the farm, were laying black plastic mulch in the pouring rain. It’s glistening symmetrical semi circles could be an earth art installation.
Last October we were here to help (er play) with the pumpkin harvest when the same space looked like this:
There’s a distinct thrill being here on this inaugural day, privy to the start of something that goes up and down every year like a traveling carnival or vaudeville show, all glitz and color and crowds and then it’s over, dormant as winter, everything turning still and quiet. Today the stagehands scramble to prepare for opening night.
On Saturday (5/25) I planted flower seeds in the unseasonably cold rain, covered in mud and grateful for the lack of mosquitoes or scorching heat: giant rust colored sunflowers, “save the bees” and “save the birds” seed mixes, several varieties of zinnias, cosmos and dwarf sweet peas. I also planted the cucumber seedlings I started indoors (these since have died due to the excess of lobster/crab fertilizer I added- too much nitrogen. And new seeds planted directly are coming up nicely now). This is probably better since my friend Robin doesn’t advise planting cuke seeds until July in order to avoid powdery mildew. Not wanting to bother my farmer friend with petty, novice little garden questions, I shyly asked her about whether the diminutive size of my pepper and eggplant starts were viable and she said, much to my happy surprise that yes, hers were tiny too and that once outside bathed in sun and heat they’d grow quickly and vigorously. So today Chris and I added soil to the potato plants in their bags (akin to mounding) and put down black plastic on part of a row, cutting little x’s in to plant our three jalepeño plants, six bell peppers and eight black beauty eggplants. We shall see! (Update from late June: all but two peppers and one eggplant started inside croaked during the first week outside due to the combination of unseasonably cool temps and heavy rain coupled with a surfeit of hungry flea beetles who promptly defoliated them. Given our yard’s healthy population of insects, I think seedlings need to be large and vigorous to survive their new digs. I bought lovely large organic seedlings to replace them at this nearby organic farm.) Robin told me that when she lived in VT and had no place to start plants indoors she planted tomatoes, peppers and eggplants outdoors from seed. I didn’t even know that was possible. It sounds so daring! Seedlings still in need of transplant (still prepping the soil and making mounds): tomatoes and tomatillos, sugar pumpkin, black beauty, zephyr, and flying saucer squash and watermelon. I will also plant seeds– watermelon, pumpkin and butternut squash. My friend said she doesn’t plant hers until June 1st so I’m happy to know I’m right on schedule.
Below: our little seedlings pre-flea beetle-chomping followed by their replacements: new big greenhouse seedlings.
Someday I think I’ll have all of this gardening knowledge at my disposal within easy reach: planting dates and rhythms, ins and outs of growing and harvesting and all that is involved– it will be graspable, simple and part of my repertoire. I won’t have to ask. I’ll be the one with tricks up my sleeve. For now the learning curve is still steep but already less so than last year. I know that Brussels sprouts have to go in the ground now for example and that black plastic mulch is great for hothouse plants like eggplant, peppers and melons and that porous row cover would be beneficial for protecting the delicate Lacinato kale and various seedlings from flea beetles (not that I’ve tried this yet) and that transplanting beets when they’re quite small works some of the time but thinning is just easier and faster and you can eat the greens. Thinning, like the garden in general, is a practice in non-attachment. Why practice this? Because attraction and aversion keep us looped in a circuit of running to and fro, out of contact with the present moments. Because attraction and attachment ultimately breed unhappiness and loosening the grip of false control invites calm. The writer of this book gifted to me for my birthday and which I’ve just begun happily reading, speaks directly to the Dharma a garden provides: reminding us of its and our ephemeral nature.