NATURE’S TURN: For the kingdom of plants, great and small

The promise of a luxurious garden inspires us to make decisions right away regarding the new season’s frost-hardy plantings.

February 29 – March 13, 2016

Mt. Washington — Broad-crowned maple trees are gushing glistening sap, which is boiling down to indescribably delicious, thick syrup. Stems of forsythia brought indoors to bloom in vases are making riotous displays of yellow sunbursts. Aloe plants in flowerpots offer bits of their gelatinous leaves to heal and soothe our skin. Seeds of alfalfa, broccoli, radish and mung beans, watered and rinsed, are sprouting in the kitchen, to provide very fresh infant salad. Fruits, roots, stems, leaves and flowers, harvested through the growing season past, are presented, with praise and gratitude, in our breakfast bowls, on our dinner plates and in our tea cups everyday.

For long-term storage, redwing, a slightly pungent red onion, and copra, a yellow onion, keep for about nine months in a cold, dark location. Photo by Judy Isacoff
For long-term storage, redwing, a slightly pungent red onion, and copra, a yellow onion, keep for about nine months in a cold, dark location. Photo by Judy Isacoff

The quickening of the sun’s return to our part of the world is stirring me. The sun has turned my spirit towards spring, and so I am preparing for the growing season ahead. Still, many of us can’t help but lament this winter’s thwarted nature. When soft snowflakes fell in a steady deluge a few days ago I felt the scene deeply, as if I had tapped into a universal memory. Snow signifies winter for cold climate dwellers; it is as significant to our well-being as it is to our gardens and the wilderness. A blanket of snow is slow-release water storage for the water table and slow-release nitrogen, captured from the atmosphere, that fertilizes our gardens and farms; it is a source of wonder and recreation.

The promise of a luxurious garden inspires us to make decisions right away regarding the new season’s frost-hardy plantings. For the vegetable garden, it is timely to purchase onion and leek seed, especially if you are planning to sow these crops indoors to be ready for planting out when the ground thaws, usually around mid-April here in Zone 5.

I’ve planted onions outdoors from seed but found it too time-consuming to thin and weed the tiny seedlings. Garden centers will have onion sets, requiring no planning ahead. But seeds provide more choice of varieties. Onion plantlets are usually available from local growers, although not always as early as might be desired. Another option is to mail order now for a delivery date of your choosing from online catalogues, which is my habit.

From the vantage point of a home gardener, I find that all other frost-tolerant vegetables may be seeded directly in the garden with great success. These include parsnips, collards, kale, leeks, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and lettuce.

A note from Tom Zetterstrom about his photograph: “These two maples once stood in front of a home in Falls Village (Connecticut). They were planted as ‘bridal trees,’ a tradition which represented the concept of the marriage that established the home. By 1979 the home was long gone, and now the trees are all but past.” A tradition worth reviving!

Resources:

Tom Zetterstrom, Photographer

March 5, Mad Gardeners Symposium: Designer’s Vision

March 5 – 13, Project Native Environmental Film Festival

March 5 – 20, Berkshire Festival of Women Writers

March is Maple Month: www.berkshiregrown.org