I was curious to see
what would survive the harsh winter.
Several greens flourished
in the garden, including some kale that is still producing salads. The spinach
that slept through in cold frames, often under piles of snow, leaped up toward
the sun when we removed their storm window rooftops. Fat asparagus stalks
begged to be plucked and roasted, and we complied.
Every day in April I
inspected two new apple trees—lifeless sticks when planted last fall—and
watched buds swell and leaves fluff out. They may grow branches by summer’s
end. The blackberries we thought had died rose triumphant, Christlike,
portending summer breakfasts al fresco. The coffee grounds I dumped on the
blueberry patch through the winter have now resurrected as flowers that might
just turn to fruit. The strawberry plants scattered throughout the flowerbed last
fall are blooming too, and the honeyberry and gobi berry sticks that I planted
and promptly lost are now beginning their ascent into bushdom.
The rosemary unsurprisingly
died, but I replaced it with one I’d kept inside. The sage that died won’t be
missed. Very surprisingly, the relentless, invincible English ivy that dominated
the northern hillside—keeping the yard from eroding into the street, but also
harboring mosquitoes and weeds—croaked. Every hydrangea died to the ground, but
now they’re preparing to give it another go.
Here is the biggest
miracle: A couple of years ago I
abandoned the red wriggler worms that had been
vermicomposting in the basement, because I couldn’t seem to separate them from
their castings. To obtain potting soil I found myself sorting out the little
fellows worm by worm by tedious worm till there was no daylight left for
planting. With muttered apologies I dumped the whole project into our outdoor
compost bins, knowing I was sentencing them to Siberian winter, or so the
internet told me.
But this spring we
discovered our compost bins producing better soil, faster than ever. It was
crawling with red wrigglers, who had somehow found the bins warm enough to
enjoy chomping and reproducing through the winter. So I rewarded them with a
basket of shredded paper—my own journals, highly compostable—and they began
picnicking with gusto.
growing lettuce, spinach, and arugula in containers that will be shaded as the
leaf cover thickens, to see if they will last into the summer, covering them
with translucent cloth to keep out squirrels, who love to hide their nuts in
there. Starting seedlings in a small porch greenhouse, and finding its air warm,
moist, and green. Failed experiment: losing a whole crop of carefully nurtured tomato
seedlings when I transplanted them in too-wet soil.
squirrels, reading a lovely book called Seeing Trees, I learned about some
ornery seedlings, so difficult to pull from the
ground that they have to be shoveled or pickaxed out. I had no clue what they
were, where they came from, or by what wicked magic they appeared. According to
the book, these are black walnuts from our neighbor’s tree, planted by a
squirrel. There you go.
Here is the difference between inside and
outside projects: whatever you set aside inside only gathers dust. But whatever
you leave outside works magic. Flowers form. Vines find their pole, even when
it is moved. Last year’s bachelor buttons multiply, and the columbine by the
wrought-iron bench grows taller and stronger. The soil is at work even when you
aren’t. And there’s always more to learn.