The Mast-Head: Two Gardens

Reminders are now all around us that the time has come to get ready for the warmer, more active months

    A friend sent me a text message Tuesday night that the spring peepers had begun to sing near her house. Down here by the beach, the diminutive frogs had started their chorus exactly a week earlier. They were late, according to a rough record I keep penciled on our basement wall; last year, their ringing love calls began before the middle of March.

    Reminders are now all around us that the time has come to get ready for the warmer, more active months. Peepers, returning songbirds, a trio of soaring vultures, crocuses on the lawn, swelling buds on the trees signal nature’s inexorable clock.

    Over the weekend, our 4-year-old, Ellis, and I started work in our garden beds, snapping off last year’s seed pods and scraping the soil of the weeds that had already begun to renew themselves. Several low heads of kale and two carrots that we had planted in the fall had survived the winter. Ellis dug out his carrots, a purple-and-white variety of some sort, the longest no more than four inches, and brought them inside to show his mother. Later, after we had washed them, he nibbled them, unpeeled, down nearly to the modest leaves, and pronounced them good.

    Sometime seed-starters like myself are belatedly motivated by April’s warmer days. Ellis and I have laid out peat-pot flats of collards, variegated chard, and peas in recycled, plastic salad containers in the kitchen. On Saturday or Sunday we might get some tomatoes and flat-leaf parsley going and sow a bit of spinach if we can get the soil turned, the compost laid, and the irrigation hose rolled out and in place.

    Working in the garden is easy now, before the weeds have had a chance to get their roots down. Come the Fourth of July, the beds will be a dense tangle of desired growth, mysterious volunteers from unknown seed, and familiar weeds. We are gardeners of a less-than-fastidious stripe.

    The garden is itself a metaphor for the seasons, the way it is simple in winter, overflowing and impossible to get my arms around in summer. In August, as Ellis and I are pulling weeds and trying to keep it watered, if you ask, I will admit that I secretly long for the fallow time.