Last weekend, we finally put in our garden.
It’s about time, the tiny seeds and seedlings seemed to shout at me as my partner and I tucked them into the rich brown dirt we have worked now for three seasons. We planted them in tidy, carefully measured and labeled rows that correlated to the sketch Jim had penciled on graph paper before translating it to real life. That is just what happens when your co-gardener and partner is an archaeologist used to doing precise field work for a living.
It’s not so much par for the course for me, a person who generally approaches gardening — and life — in a more haphazard, hopeful way. I planted my first garden in Belfast, where we live, three springs ago essentially as an elaborate way of procrastinating moving from one house to another. If the green beans and peas I planted grew, it would be a happy accident. And grow they did.
That first summer the garden grew lush and lovely, the seeds sprouting and sending green tendrils up to stretch out in the sunshine. We harvested more green beans than we knew what to do with, sugar snap peas, hot peppers and cherry tomatoes.
Last spring, we doubled the size of our garden and amended the soil with a truckload of rich composted manure purchased from a Waldo County farm. We had good luck with some plants, blessed again with heaps of green beans and anew with piles of carrots in all colors. Other crops didn’t work out. Every cucumber, summer squash and zucchini we planted started out well and then withered, beset by all manner of pests and disease.
But we carry on with our garden dreaming, undaunted by last summer’s missteps. I know we’ll make some missteps this year, too, even as the towering pile of seed packets bears witness to our growing ambitions. We have planted four kinds of carrots, three kinds of green beans and two varieties of peas. We have garlic, green and tall; collard greens, spinach, and both green and white onions. I sowed seeds for dill, cilantro and spicy edible marigolds. A friend generously shared some of his kale seedlings and another friend let us have some promising onion starts and an abundance of extra seeds.
We put in hot peppers and heirloom tomatoes, covering the soil with black plastic to give the hot-weather-loving seedlings a good start in a cool Maine spring. We put in potatoes, hoping that the potato bugs will let us get a good crop out of the season.
We work with confidence, certain that our May efforts will reap delicious fruits as the season continues. And, yet, I still have questions. I wonder how the seeds can carry within them enough potential to make the garden flourish. We planted an heirloom bean seed that was large, mottled and beautiful, and marigold seeds that were so fine I feared they would blow away before I could cover them with dirt.
Perhaps it is an act of faith to plant and trust that the sun, soil and water will work their magic, that the seeds will germinate and grow, that the plants will flower, that the fruits and vegetables will ripen and grow. The spring garden is a place of possibilities, and we can only do our best to tend, weed and water enough to give those possibilities a chance to emerge.