A garden is all about new beginnings

“I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing robin, sing:
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.”   

–  Christina Rossetti

By the end of March I’m eagerly looking for flower buds, pulling out seed packs and straining to hear bird songs.  The ancient Romans started the year in the month of March and that calendar orientation sure feels right as winter winds down.

A little while ago, folks from the software company we use for our desig ns reached out to ask if I’d interview for a blog post about women in landscaping.  Speaking with them, and later, with one of their colleagues, for a trade article on the same subject, reminded me of that moment, more than 10 years ago, that I decided to change careers, moving from teaching to landscaping.  Interestingly, it was in March that I committed to taking that leap.

Nature reminds us of spring’s promise that there are always opportunities for new beginnings.

Watching the resiliency of bulbs and buds as they push out new growth in freezing weather gives me the courage to break out of old patterns and the hope that comes with the opportunity to start fresh.  Over 50 now, I’m especially grateful to have this annual reminder that is never too late to begin to grow again.

Later today, if weather warms, I’ll be able to plant peas – a St. Patrick’s Day tradition.  In a few weeks, those seeds will be small plants.  And so, the adventure of this new garden year begins.

Hello new life.  Hello flowers budding in harsh winds.  Hello hope.

Planting peas for St. Patrick’s Day?  Here’s a link to some basics from Maryland’s Home and Garden information center.

Inoculating Peas

Peas take nitrogen from the atmosphere and ‘fix’ it in the soil. Adding beneficial bacteria to the soil through an inoculant helps the peas do this extra efficiently. Here’s a good system for inoculating peas (and beans for that matter) with a commercially available bacteria (total natural and approved for organic farming, btw)
1. Place peas in a glass of water
2. Remove the peas and place the peas in a second glass
3. Sprinkle pea inoculant in the glass and shake up the peas till they are coated
4. Plant peas

You don’t need to add additional nitrogen to the soil when you plant inoculated peas, and you can till in the peas when they are done and enrich the soil in your garden bed.

We get our inoculant from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine:Inoculant for peas and beans


Getting ready to plant peas: apprentice gardener Kris learns how to pull winter weeds, add compost and turn the soil. Love this excuse to pass off the heavy lifting and just show up for the planting….

Time for Fall Crops!

Time to think fall crops. Weather has finally cooled down a bit and we are thinking of lettuces and greens and beets and carrots (which always do better for me in the fall). Given the successful overwintering of broccoli last year, maybe even spring too…Check out Johnny’s suggestions here: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/t-Summer_Plant_Fall_Harvest.aspx?source=Home_Slide1_072013#vegetables

The Favas are Coming!

We’ll be picking them in May- peeling first the outer shell, then the white membrane around each individual bean. Worth it? Yes. Parboil the bean with membrane for a few seconds and it will pop off. Saute the fresh favas in olive oil with garlic and rosemary.

Pest alert: Aphids love favas. If you see them, spray with insecticidal soap.


So far, the only 2 in the whole patch…At a client’s last week where they were all coming up, some over 2′ high, in a bed that is less than a year old.

Fingers crossed, the rest aren’t gone.

Who says global warming is all bad…

Just harvested this broccoli for dinner. It grew through the winter with no protection….

Seed Shopping

Malabar Spinach: Thrives in summer heat, beautiful on a fence or trellis. Visualizing it in the garden on this cold wet Saturday. Southern Exposure Seed Catalogue is sold out, but Johnny’s Selected Seeds has ’em.

lunch in the garden (at 9PM)

The end of the school year is as busy as the holidays:  kids are finishing up spring sports and starting summer swim team practice, one is getting promoted and will start middle school next year, one will be going to Rwanda for 6 weeks, one may or may not have a  boyfriend…the to do list includes mounting self portraits of the 5th graders for the promotion ceremony, getting our oldest vaccinated for yellow fever and stocked with iodine,  arranging a pool party for a bunch of 6th graders so we can meet the new ‘boyfriend’ whom my daughter seems to be constantly texting, cleaning the house, changing the sheets on beds for visiting grandparents, and so on.

After Desmond’s last baseball game of the season, I came home to find my friend Meg finishing up an evening gardening session.  Morning glory vines had taken over her tomato cages.  Maple seedlings were sprouting everywhere.  The garden must not have understood that single moms need time to get through their to-do lists before weeds should be allowed to take over.

8:45 at night, we grabbed a couple of flashlights and went outside to see what looked ready to harvest and where to cut the vines from the cages, tasks a bit easier to do in daylight, but a bit more fun with flashlights. 

We picked large lettuce leaves to go with the even larger radishes Meg had harvested before we got home, a few carrots not quite ready to eat, and a couple of fava beans so I could post the pictures on my blog for Jen, who is not sure whether her own favas are ready for harvest. 

(Jen:  here are the photos:  Pods were about 4″ long, and the beans inside the warted pod were as delicious as those from the one with no deformities)

If my husband weren’t in Amsterdam and I working 12 hours a day, maybe I’d sautee them in olive oil and snip a bit of precious rosemary from the new plant that went in as a replacement for one lost in the snow storm this past winter.

However, right now, I am happy to “do lunch” by sampling raw beans and slightly immature carrots,  bagging up lettuce and radishes for Meg’s lunch box tomorrow.  I’ll take time with friends and the taste of fresh food any way I can get them.

peas and pests

It was too hot to walk the dog for more than 15 minutes this afternoon, so I was glad when I finished picking all these peas by around 11 AM.  Stayed inside and watched old episdodes of ’30 Rock’ with the kids while shelling peas and avoiding the weather.  The first pods of the season were ready to pick Memorial Day weekend.  Now we are separating pods and peas.  We snap the tops from the peas, peel off the string, and then drop top and string in the compost bowl, pods in a second and peas in a third,  In this hot weather, we only wnat to have cold Vietnamese salads and noodles for dinner.  We are saving the pea pods for those.

Caterpillars are eating up the bok choy, another reason for making more aisian salads, a Chinese cole slaw, perhaps. 

We’ve pulled all our arugula, but still have some salad that is good.

Dinner tonight:  Steak, peas and Angel Food Cake with Strawberries.  Tomorrow:  Peas:  Snap pea salad, pea, radish and feta salad, seared chicken and snap peas, peas and prosciutto with pasta…

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