It is time to begin the garden! I love an old fashioned garden. An enchanting kitchen garden is a wonderful place to work, relax and enjoy nature. A colorful, fragrant kitchen garden can be as large as a vacant lot or as small as a series of pots on the porch. It can be the entire set up of your yard if you choose.
Always begin by planting some fruiting vines and shrubs on the south side of the garden or yard. I like beach plums, blueberries, raspberries and black berries. A few fruit trees on the north if there is space are pretty and useful. I find that plums, cherries and pears take very little maintenance and reward us with fruit. Since our garden is fenced in I have these plants on the outside. At either end there are herbs and flowers also on the outside of the fence. On the inside we plant flowers, vegetables and herbs. The early garden has peas, radishes, lettuce, parsley, dill, beets and arugula. Poppies, Larkspur and Calendula are the first flowers we plant for May bloom.
Later when it warms up we plant tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, peppers, flowers and lots of herbs, especially basil.
Now that spring is near, we are getting ready to garden. My husband Ted has been spreading compost and pulling out old plants that remained since fall. We are getting seeds ready and making lists of plants that we will need.
Spring is officially here when we have equal hours of dark and light. Called the vernal or spring equinox, this is one of our four seasonal changes that occur during the year. The first day of spring is usually March 20 or 21, depending on what day the sun is right over the equator.Remember, the sun isn’t moving the earth is. As the earth revolves around the sun, the top half, called the Northern Hemisphere, becomes tilted more toward the sun as winter turns to spring.
“Equinox” comes from Latin and means “equal nights.” Sunrise and sunset will be about twelve hours apart everywhere on Earth and by the 21st day is a little longer than the night. I was born on this equinox during a snowstorm and have seen many of these spring snows come in a furry only to soon melt away.
I have always thought of March as a bridge between winter and spring. It seems often one season crosses the bridge only to be pushed back by the other. Many say spring is a time of transition for all of nature. There are very cold and snowy days, but also soft days and sometimes wet stormy days. Some of the biggest snowfalls have happened around the first day of spring.
Usually we plant our early garden by St. Patrick’s Day, weather permitting. If it is too icy, the peas remain in the pack as will the lettuce. Wet, cold earth should stop you in your tracks from turning the soil.
Today, more than ever, gardeners must be in tune with the environment. We must strive to appreciate the fragile nature of our surroundings and help to restore a balance in nature by sound natural gardeningpractices. One thing all gardeners should have in common is a commitment to Mother Earth. Gardeners are protectors of the environment and links to all of gardening history. We carry a tradition set by poet and peasants, one that strives to best improve the plot in which plants are grown for use and delight. Literature from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians lauds the good agriculture practices of the environmentally sensitive gardeners.
Even then many people were keepers of the earth and had beautiful gardens. Later in history the monks of the Middle Ages kept alive the gardening knowledge of those highpoints in bucolic life and once againbecame stewards of the earth. We can learn much from this gentle community of gardeners. They were aware that gardening refreshed the troubled spirit, but that also conscientious gardening refreshed the earth.
Gardening is now said to be one of the most predominant hobbies in America as well as in many other countries. This is a good thing as long as people garden naturally and with care. It is so important to tend the garden with the thought of improving the soil and replenishing not ruining resources.
Replenishing the soil
Whether the garden is in a large pot or a large plot, soil is of utmost importance. There are many ways to improve the soil in a natural way. The most important is to make a compost pile in which all organic materials from both house and garden are stowed so that they might best decompose. Compost is very beneficial when added to a garden as it provides nutrients to plants in a slow-release, balanced manner that the plant needs to grow, but it also improves the soil for the long range.
Clay soils need this as often as possible to aerate them so that they don’tpack and sandy soils benefit as the organic materials helps retain moisture. But the best thing of all about compost is that making it uses up all those leaves and grass clippings as well as kitchen scraps and will insure that what is taken out of the earth goes back.
The process can be as simple as a heap behind a shed, a ring of chicken wire that can be moved from spot to spot or an elaborate gadget ordered from a garden catalog. We have even made large piles using four pallets, tied into a square, with one side removable for turning the pile. Some folks simply make holes in the garden all year round and bury kitchen scraps. Others mulch with grass clippings and shredded leaves.
Some folks follow certain rules for making compost, other just wing it, but just remember that you need to create a good environment for allowing decay-producing microorganisms to break down the materials. Some folks say your need four ingredients that are layered and turned. This is a common recipe found in many garden books.
- 4 parts brown ingredients
- (dry leaves, dry grass, shredded newspaper, straw)
- 1 part green material (fresh grass clippings, weeds, garden trimmings and kitchen scraps)
- barnyard manure (we often increase this when Ted cleans the hen house)
Water when dry. Air for oxygen (turn pile to aerate)
One of the nicest kitchen gardens I have seen is at the home of my friendKaren and her husband John in Cape May. When I saw this garden I really did think ‘enchanted garden.’ It was set up in a manner in which the vegetables and flowers were just beautiful.
Remember your plot is your pallet and you can create what ever design you like. Rows edged by a fence with herbs or roses or blocks of color like a patchwork quilt. Since most of the vegetables and plants are annuals, you can redesign each year if you want to.
Plan first, then plant. So whether your garden is big and old or new and small, dig in! Gardening is great!
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