Putting in the seed

IMG_3166I spent most of the weekend on my hands and knees planting seeds in our vegetable garden. I’m a firm believer in the “square foot” gardening method developed by the late Mel Barthelme who advocated the use of raised beds and planting in tight rows inside 12 x 12 inch grids. Over the years, the grid has given way to a more relaxed and larger planting swath, but our eight raised beds — each about the size of a twin mattress — still yield enough lettuces, beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cutting flowers to keep us out of the greengrocers from June until early October.

The vegetable garden at the height of its glory

The vegetable garden at the height of its glory in late summer

Most gardeners in Southern New England probably share my belief that the only crops you can consistently count on every year are pebbles, rocks, and stones. Though they don’t entirely solve the problem, the raised beds make it much easier to amend the soil and keep it evenly moist. They also add a comforting sense of order to a process that — due to the vagaries of the elements — remains an iffy undertaking. Already this spring, we lost most of our pear blossoms to a late frost and the chipmunks dug up and carted away almost an entire bed of sugar snap peas.

Sunflower seedlingStill, like Robert Frost in the sonnet below, I am a “slave to a springtime passion for the earth.” And there’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching the “sturdy seedling with arched body … shouldering its way” — or as delicious as freshly picked arugula you planted yourself.



by Robert Frost

You come to fetch me from my work to-night
When supper’s on the table, and we’ll see
If I can leave off burying the white
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea);
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

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13 Responses to Putting in the seed

  1. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    “Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth…” Wonderful !!

  2. Having just returned to the house, happily covered in dirt, from my own little corner of heaven, I can only say “amen” to your beautifully phrased paean to gardening. There’s nothing as satisfying as preparing a meal with produce grown by dint of one’s own effort.

  3. What a great post and how this poem did make me weep with its restraint and heartfelt love.

  4. Paula Farrell says:

    Touching thoughts – so sorry you lost your snap peas – at least you would have thought sharing might be the way to go, but apparently the critters didn’t see that way….and oh that frost will get you every time.

  5. Susan Fisher says:

    You make me panic stricken about what I will find — or not find — when we return at the end of next week. I’m going to cry if I don’t get any pears and peaches this year because of the frost, especially after that mild, mild winter — until it wasn’t a mild, mild spring! And we only planted lettuce and arugula and some peas before we left, so I’m hoping they have survived.

  6. Bill Loeb says:

    And occasionally me too ! See you soon. S/ Cowboy Bill

  7. Judy Buck says:

    Love all of it. Thank you, Liza, from the depths of my urban heart!

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