Monday, April 30, 2012

survivors

I got home in time tonight to putter a bit in the garden after dinner as the light waned and turned rosy. I finally dug in the two basil and two cilantro plants I picked up more than a week ago, planted two rows of mixed lettuces for cutting, some French Breakfast radishes and some Black Beauty zucchini. As I did, I realized that nearly every bed in my front garden contains certain plants that exist in those places either because they remained from last summer or because, like the fennel which has nearly completely populated one of the street-side beds, their parents cast seed far and wide.
That fennel jumped the sidewalk from where it reseeded last summer, in the same place I had actually planted it the summer before. It is keeping company with the cilantro plant (blooming in the center of the bed) which overwintered as a handful of leaves on a couple of stalks, kept warm and snug beneath a pile of dried oak leaves all winter--completely by accident.

In another bed, a gnarly shallot, another refugee of two summers ago, shares real estate with three new tomato plants:

In yet another, I have left in place something(?) from the mustard family which also overwintered, mostly exposed to the elements (tough guy!) and planted around it four tomato plants and, along the back of the bed, a row of peas. By the time the tomatoes get big enough to crowd out the peas (and they will) the peas will be long harvested and gone. Tonight I stuck a few radish seeds in around the tomatoes with a similar timeline strategy.
I've been pleased to leave the mustard, which I'm not terribly interested in eating, to serve as early food for some critter. I figure it's a fair trade--I leave the mustard for the critter and the critter leaves the rest of the plants for me. And now, the mustard is enjoying a last blooming hurrah:
butter-yellow flowers against the iron-colored leaves
Arugula, both civilized and wild, also overwintered and has re-seeded--hard to tell the parents from the children and the grandchildren at this point.
I've left it where it grows, tucking pepper plants into the same bed. And it is also flowering, beautifully:
the wild...

...and the civilized arugula
But the most nutritious survivor by far has been the chard. It soldiered through the winter, partly and carelessly sheltered by leaves. When the weather warmed, it sprang immediately to life, producing giant leathery leaves that have fed us several meals already this spring with another basketful harvested this evening. It is trying to go to seed but I keep cutting off the skyward shoots. 
the chard, post-harvest
We'll see how long I can frustrate it into producing more leaves. Looking to the future, I've tacked a basil plant to the end of its row and another in an empty spot in the middle--to go with the four basil plants behind the chard and looking a little cold burned from the near-freeze we had a couple weeks ago. Tonight I planted lettuces in the front of the bed.

It gives me great pleasure to watch the patchwork of my little beds emerge and transform, some at my hands but so much of it courtesy of the sun, rain, soil and the plants' own tenacious drive to survive and reproduce. It's truly stunning.
a gratuitous shot of pea blossoms, one of my favorite sights of spring!

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