June in the garden: a time when anxious planning transforms into fleeting optimism. It’s hard not to feel encouraged when I walk outside on a sunny morning and round the corner to face a sea of green leaves, flowers, and healthy plants. This is definitively why people garden year after year. It’s certainly not pest management, money spent on amendments, or keeping a tally of how many plants one can kill that makes one wistful and reflective. Rather, it’s the visual stimulation, the eager anticipation, and the literal fruits of labor that excite me as I water, read through seed catalogues, look up garden maps online, and fastidiously watch the patterns of the sun in preparation for another raised bed.
Yet, there’s still so much to learn, especially in the art of patience and acceptance. In the blooming times, it’s easy to forget about a month ago, where little in the raised bed was working and I was battling squirrels and water-logged soil. After several years of mixed-results-gardening, I now know that this path has a unique ability to bolster my confidence one week, only to make me feel like a total failure the next.
With the exception of two varieties of peas, none of the seeds I direct sowed in the raised beds germinated. To clarify, they probably did germinate, but any fragile seedlings were promptly dug up by our resident squirrels. I reseeded twice more – but then, facing an early summer without homegrown salad greens, gritted my teeth, amended the soil more (it wasn’t just the squirrels that were preventing germination, but the horribly inadequate soil left in the raised beds from the previous owners of the house), and bought local, organic carrot and lettuce starts. The two varieties of peas, after much anguish over whether they’d flower or not, have quite obviously flowered, so far yielding a harvest of two peas (with at least ten more to come! Enough to feed a family? Right.)
The best news of the growing season thus far is that I successfully started eight tomato plants, all of which are growing rapidly in the raised beds and a few pots on the deck. Because I started them a month later than I should have, I also bought two incredibly healthy tomato starts (Yellow Pear and Juane Flamme), both of which have begun to fruit. The bonus of these staggered maturations is already evident: we’ll have tomatoes soon, and we’ll have more tomatoes in September, assuming the weather remains warm.
In the front yard, the potatoes are now in the much-anticipated potato blooming stage. I spritzed a diluted sea kelp concoction on both the potatoes and the prospering tomatoes, and I can easily witness the differences in stalk health between this year and last year. Out back, the other seeds I started indoors (calendula, coreopsis, sunflowers) are small, but alive, reaching for the sun. I don’t know what the rest of the summer will bring, but at this stage in June, more plants are thriving than not, and my mind is swirling with possibilities.
I have a folder saved on my computer entitled “greenhouses”, I have plans for a large raised bed in the backyard (for next year), and I’m about to start butternut squash seeds. I’ve even noticed that my gardening optimism translates to other parts of my life, almost like I’ve doused myself in a personal concoction of kelp water. The challenge will be accepting when rough weather hits, when promising fruit rots, and when things don’t work. I’ll just need to remind myself of these light-filled June days.