The snow has melted, the dirt mostly thawed, and I am surveying the damage. In less than a month this is supposed to be a garden. Right now it’s a disaster zone. I question myself:
|Was all the mulch really necessary?
|And what was the rationale in leaving behind all these dead plants?
What are all these unidentifiable sticks lovingly planted in flower pots, anyway?
It’s a mess, but hidden in the winter’s decay are signs of new life: slender green onion shoots, dandelion leaves, and the indomitable tulips that arrive in April like impolitely early party guests, standing with their arms crossed while I apologize for the state of things.
In the back garden, other early greens have appeared—but these are the ones for which I am responsible: early lettuce and radish sprouts, and tomato seedlings that have this year, to my great dismay, insisted on bolting to ridiculous heights.
They are heirlooms—Brandywine Reds, Romas, Manitobas, and Mortgage Lifters. I taste the names and think about tomato sauce.
|They, like the rest of the garden, exist in a constant experimental flux. Crop locations are rotated, planting times are altered to see if produce will arrive earlier or later, and the sticks, I now recall, are the gruesome remains of a rose-cutting experiment gone wrong. The garden tolerates a great deal of my poorly conceived “science”, but each year I have to remind myself of one crucial factor in the building and maintenance of a garden: it does not really matter what I do. I can’t make the plants grow, I don’t control their biological impulses, and in the end a garden only attends to one mandate: to grow.
I will, of course, fuss over the garden. I will expend a great deal of anxiety over the plants, even though my family members will gently remind me that I could always buy more plants if these die. Of course I could—but in the face of nature’s unperturbed persistence, I balk. I want to be involved. And so, though it is still too early, I am out here with rake and spade, working the soil, clearing the mulch.
Even though I know that in the end, the garden will look much like it did last year.