Apr 26 2013

Growing Season, Already?

After a long winter hiatus, when I first picked up the little green notebook in which I record gardening notes, I flipped to see when the last entry was.

October 30.

The entry read with an air of hopeful dejection, if there is such a thing: while nothing was working out, I still wanted to believe that something would. Would the brussels sprouts hang on despite the onslaught of pests? Would I be able to grow salad greens again? I stopped recording in October because that's the last time our little raised bed and containers showed any signs of productivity. In November, I prepared everything for winter, and over the past few months I've read through several new gardening books and have emerged with an upbeat attitude. Whereas last year, I was disappointed when things didn't work – even though it was my first year truly gardening – this year, I've shaken off my own rigid standards, and am trusting in my own intuition.

In the raised bed, I've planted two different kinds of salad greens, carrots, and arugula. The first pest I had to take care of was a mysterious, fuzzy, grey variety that my gardening books hadn't talked about: my cat. Kate continues to be a semi-outdoor cat. While she doesn't have the personality to wander around the neighborhood like she owns it (see: our across the street neighbor-cat), she does enjoy sitting outside, interloping among the two yards directly beside our house, and staring, sometimes angrily, at passing pedestrians, bikers, and dogs. After I seeded everything, I came out the next afternoon to find the raised bed partially dug through. Kate thought I had gifted her with the world's largest litter box. We now keep out this fuzzy pest with chicken wire; since adding that layer of protection, the seeds have grown into healthy looking seedlings, with mature leaves only a few weeks away.

In the containers, last year's strawberry plant has returned with vigor. I'm anticipating plucking a few strawberries from the plant before next week is over, especially if Portland's current stretch of warm weather continues. The overwintered parsley, sage, and oregano have turned healthier shades of green, and we've added a thriving mint plant. I've also seeded a few different flowers specifically for bees: coreopsis and bee's friend. Along with these flowers, I've planted dahlia bulbs, sunflower seeds, and marigold seeds.

The biggest, most impactful (non-edible) changes are concentrated in the front of the house. I spent most of March admiring various camellia plants around Portland before deciding to add our own small camellia to an area where we kept annual flowers last year. And just a few days ago, we gave the camellia a bright, blooming friend: a purple rhododendron. We've also removed the two bushes that used to flank the stone steps and added a triptych of hebes in different colors. I'm planning on keeping the right front planter for annuals and the left for a mixture of annual and perennials.

I know the garden will change quickly and steadily throughout Spring, as annual flowers start to die back, food starts to grow, and we excitedly add tomatoes and basil into the mix.