Our spring growing season has officially begun! We started our first round of seeds in the greenhouse this past weekend, and some seedlings are already poking their heads up through the soil. Ever since Kevin and I started the seeds for my first garden years ago, the process has always struck me as magical. It still inspires me to watch a tiny seed, fed with the simple ingredients of moisture, heat, and nutritious soil, become a plant that can feed us all season. It is thrilling to see new signs of germination in a different crop each day, and noticeable growth from yesterday’s tiny seedlings. Time flies, and I know it won’t be long before we’re transplanting these babies out into the great big world, and then not much longer until we’re enjoying their bounty!
If you’re planning to start a garden for the first time this year, there are lots of books and other publications out there (sometimes to the point of overwhelm!). Ron and Jennifer Kujawski’s Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbookand The Sustainable Vegetable Garden: A Backyard Guide to Healthy Soil and Higher Yields by John Jeavons and Carol Cox may be good places to start. If you’re looking to dive into more resources (whether this is your first growing season or your tenth—there is always more to learn!), I compiled a list of some that have been useful to us in this blog entry last year. We love learning and exchanging knowledge, and would love to hear about your go-to gardening resources, too!
This sweet little bee ventured out on a warm day into the high tunnel. Don't get ahead of yourself, my friend!
If you’re looking for a good book to read on days when it’s too hot to be out in the garden, might I recommend Patricia Klindienst’s The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans? I just finished this engaging, but gentle, almost meditative book. The author visits farmers and gardeners all over the United States whose gardens both feed their bodies and nourish their cultural connections, whether their homeland is Cambodia, Italy, or India, or their ancestors have farmed the same land since long before European settlement. Klindienst provides space for the farmers to speak for themselves, revealing the stories of their gardens as ways of telling their personal and cultural histories.
I was struck by the diversity of experience within growing food, which is done all over the world, in very different situations and environments, growing very different crops. Yet there is a deep commonality to this practice: an intense connection to the place, the land, and the particulars of climate and ecosystem, as well as the attention paid, care given, skills perfected, and community built. For the people in the book who had left their homeland to forge a new life in the United States, their gardens—their traditional practices and techniques, as well as the crops they grow—serve as a way to ground them in their new homes and tangibly connect them back to the places and people they had left behind. For people such as the Gullah farmers of South Carolina and the Native American farmers of New Mexico, growing food is an embodiment of their heritage, a continuous line from the past through the present to the future. For all of the growers in the book, their gardens are deeply healing places, and their relationships with their gardens seem akin to familial bonds, or even extensions of themselves. “The earth is the actual ground of our lives—we grow out of the soil too. If it dies, we die. If it lives, we eat and live. You know this when you grow your own food,” Klindienst reminds us.
Referring to her garden, Italian-American Maska Pelligrini tells Klindienst, “It’s our life, you know.” Klindienst reflects that “Maska’s all-embracing phrase, ‘It’s our life,’ included the whole garden—soil, plants, worms, birds, insects, water, sun, wind, and her. In her marvelous, encompassing, humble phrase, ‘our life’ extended to include ‘their lives.’ Her garden was an interdependent community, a democracy.”