Never are seed packets more beautiful than at this time of year. The California grasses are brown, the poppies and hollyhocks are tan stalks, many of the garden beds are post-harvest, and just lately the skies have been grey from smoke. So to lay out the packets with their bright greens and reds and yellows and even white (parsnips) is a delight. They are a promise and a reminder: in not too long a time, these colors will once again play across the garden.
Even now, just a week after the first seed flats have been planted, the fresh green sprouts are pushing up. They are so spritely it feels like they’re singing: “Bibb lettuce here! Lacinato kale! Rutabaga comin’ up! Collards on the way!”
The garden is a constant lesson in willingness. The seeds don’t know that this is a beige season, that the skies are smoky. They have been given some good soil and reliable water and they are ready! Their willingness nurtures and evokes our willingness. How can we make the beds these little guys will be transferred to as healthy, nutritious and welcoming as possible?
Of course we will chop up that manure from down the road. Of course we will add good compost and our homemade fertilizer. We’ll check the slant of the sun; which plants will do best in which beds? How much sun, how much shade? What communities will we place the plants in? Which plants are best friends, which are best kept apart? How much mulch? How much water and how delivered: overhead or drip?
What clear, wholesome questions the garden raises! What better questions could we possibly devote attention and love to? Those little kales and chards and turnips are growing into what they most truly are, and as they do, in total innocence, they offer the same gift to us.