The Winter Gardener

I spent Valentine’s Day putting in a small winter garden. That’s  not  the kind of  “vegetable love”  Andrew Marvell pledges  in “To His Coy Mistress, ”  but I do love gardening, and it was a real pleasure to prepare the ground and plant lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and collard greens, a first for me.  If all goes well we’ll be enjoying some nice salads and side dishes in about six  weeks. I may also add some brussel sprouts and carrots if I can find the time, a problem that also bothered Mr. Marvell  (“Had we but world enough and time. . . “)

The payoff’s not just in the eating, I’ve learned, but in the doing and the looking.  Every day since planting I’ve felt a lift from seeing the plants take hold, looking across the otherwise drab and frostbitten  winter yard to see those hopeful little green flags waving in the breeze (which escalated to a real gale yesterday.)  I’m glad they’re alive, and, if you’ll forgive the burbling anthropomorphism, they seem glad, too,  raising their nutritious budding arms to praise the winter  sun.  There’s something wonderful about the sight.

Of course, the winter garden is just a minor prelude to the big planting in spring, when I’ll put out around 20 tomato plants, a bunch of peppers, eggplant, cucumbers  and some corn. I never get more than a few ears, but when the cornstalks  reach about four feet tall and the tassels appear, it’s lovely.

Last year I counted up all the ways that I benefit from gardening–the aesthetics, a partial sense of self-sufficiency, connection with nature, etc.–and put my thoughts in a radio piece. Listen here if you like. And stay tuned for a darker, more violent  gardening tale in the next few days: The War Against the Rats.

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