The Rush of Spring Planting

As you may have gathered from my “Digging in the Rain” post, I’m the sort of gardener who thrives under pressure. I love to feel that it’s do or die time, that things absolutely must get done today, or there’ll be no hope of a gardening tomorrow. Maybe this is partly because gardening is overall such an uncertain art. Deciding when to plant is always a perilous decision, driven as much by intuition as by calculation. So when conditions align to make it clear that something absolutely must be gotten into the ground today—or better yet, in the next ten minutes!—it’s a welcome relief from the usual internal debate. 

The beginning of this week, I got another longed-for moment of clarity. Monday morning, I saw that the ground was dry enough for digging. And when I checked the weather report, I learned that rain was supposed to move in Wednesday. What was more, I was going to be away the following weekend, so anything that needed to be planted circa March 1 should go in the ground now


Initially, my list of tasks was short:

1-Transplant lettuce into the cold frame.

2-Sow spinach and mustard greens.

3-Dig garden soil for starting tomatoes inside. 

Makeshift watertight seedling tray (The pots sit inside this, and it keeps them from making a mess when I water.)

But, as any gardener knows, once you start to examine the logistics of even the simplest-seeming task, it inevitably creates a list of prerequisite tasks, which always take three to four times as long as the one you originally thought you’d be spending your day doing. For instance, the lettuce couldn’t be planted in the cold frame until manure and fertilizer were mixed into the soil (similarly for the sowing of spinach and mustard greens). Once I started doing this, I realized just how many perennial weed roots were left in the soil from last year and how long it was going to take to pull them all out. As I did this, I thought about the pots of tomatoes I was going to start and how I didn’t have enough empty waterproof trays to put under all of them. I’d already scoured the house ten days ago for another tray for my asparagus seedlings, and while I’d finally found one, I knew that it was the last. I managed to make a further tray from a cardboard box lined with aluminum foil, but I realized that the only thing left to do was evict my onion seedlings from their tray. Which meant getting them in the garden. Which meant digging in yet more manure and fertilizer and pulling out yet more roots. It was easily enough work for three afternoons. And I had two. 

Onions in the ground--still a little floppy, but straightening up more and more (The cage is to fend off marauding deer.)

But like I said, I like the pressure. It makes my work in the garden feel doubly virtuous. So I put my nose to the grindstone. And about 5:30 Tuesday afternoon, just as the sun was sinking below the enormous row ofLeylandcypress planted on the lot to our southwest, the last mustard seed was covered with a sprinkle of dirt. There was just enough daylight left to stand back and admire my handiwork: 40 lettuces, 56 Australian Brown onions, a few patches of Purple Bunching onions, 7 row feet of Bloomsdale Long-Standing spinach, and 3 row feet of Tatsoi mustard greens. And inside the house, already covered in plastic to keep in the moisture, were my 23 newly planted pots of tomatoes, peppers, and ground cherries. 

Nothing makes a rainy day as sweet as knowing you have dozens of new plants and seeds in the ground benefiting from the rain’s ministrations. My part is done. Now it’s nature’s turn. (Until, of course, the weeding begins anew. But let’s not think about that until tomorrow…)


9 Comments Add yours

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I actually sat down to read it after starting 150 Jalapeño peppers, 75 Cayennes, and another 75 Roma Tomatoes. I’m going to be away from the house for a couple of days and HAD to get them started!

    1. Sharon says:

      Wow! I know the work involved in that…

  2. Cindy says:

    I LOVE the watertight container. I’d been wondering what to put my seedlings in. I’ll be starting them in the next few days. Organicactivity, 225 pepper plants? That’s amazing!

    1. Sharon says:

      I know! In the future, I’m going to be saving all long cardboard boxes with low sides!

  3. Jennifer says:

    The spring energy has arrived with a vengeance in the Southeast, hasn’t it? Must get things in the ground!

    1. Sharon says:

      Oh, yes. And I just got notification that one of my spring plant shipments (Jerusalem artichoke, honeyberries…) is arriving next week. Yee gads!

  4. garden.poet says:

    Gracious, me…I’ve barely done anything yet. I am astounded…

    1. Sharon says:

      Oh, don’t worry. You’ve got time. 🙂 I just like to do things as soon as absolutely possible…don’t want to waste a minute of possible gardening season… (I can’t wait to have real lettuce again!)

  5. Hi Sharon, I love how you described how in order to achieve one task, several others require immediate attention. It just seems to be the way of the garden and goes a long way to describe how hours can be lost! Happens all the time in my garden! Cheers Sarah : o )

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