Paint Yourself a Garden

It’s been a wet spring here at Commonwealth Farm making it hard to get out and assess the garden. I feel like I should be putting my energy into building an ark, but things are looking up with some dry weather on the way. What I love about this time of year, being an artist at heart, is that your garden can be considered a blank canvas waiting for you to work some magic so that by mid-summer, you can go out and sit in that favorite chair that you have strategically positioned amid the blooms and kale and meditate! Warning: if you decide to add chickens to your urban farm, they will make fast work of your kale. Once they have eaten the lower leaves, they will employ the built in pogo sticks that seem to be part of their anatomy to jump straight up to attend to the higher leaves. The first time I saw this I smiled and was amazed to see such athleticism in poultry. They go after kale like I go after doughnuts.

But back to the garden. This is that time of year to think about what you want to plant for both your visual and dining pleasure. A friend of mine once told me that my garden has a real presence. I like that. I think that gardens just evolve over the years, plants come and go and I tend to like more of a wild look. I often don’t separate flowers and vegetables, I just let them inter-mingle. It’s not unusual for me to have a row of sunflowers behind the tomatoes with beans and sweet peas using the sunflowers as a trellis, the delicate tendrils grabbing on to the sturdy stalks. Your garden is your canvas. A great painting needs a good back drop as does your garden. I let the back of my garden go wild and grow unattended with assorted shrubs, trees, and even some weeds. The birds love it and it makes me feel like I’m in a secluded woods. The second reason is that it hides the neighbor’s yard which right now is full of remnants from home improvement projects, cars that don’t start, and other paraphernalia. I suppose that those things could qualify as garden art but I prefer to choose my own. We’ll talk about that another time.

Right now is the time to plant those cool weather crops. Every year I plant a mix of seeds and established plants. This year I sent for a catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and ordered all kinds of things you may not find at your local greenhouse or the Home Depot Garden Center. I ordered and planted European Mesclun (a mix of small greens that originated in Provence, France) and arugula two weeks ago.  My mini-greenhouse is nurturing some exotic red and lime green zinnias, purple pole beans, and some wild, multi-colored atomic grape tomatoes. Wow! I’m going to have some crazy looking salads. Next week I will take a day or two to visit my favorite local greenhouses to buy some established plants and get them in the ground by the third week of May when the chance of frost is pretty slim.

The proprietor of Commonwealth Farm is also an aficionado of garden ornaments. They can give your garden some real personality. More about that to come. I would like to recommend an occasional garden related book from time to time. The first one I might suggest is “The Backyard Parables-Lessons on Gardens and Life” by Margaret Roach. This book is really about how the garden and the act of gardening can help you to live a full and meaningful life. A little bit of science with a dose of spirituality. Enjoy these warming days, pick your palette and get those seeds in the ground.