It's May in Minnesota and the "gardening itch" has spread to a full-blown rash. If you're a gardener, you know what I am referring to. For me it usually happens sometime in March, as the sun moves a little higher, the snow threatens to (finally) melt away and, a sudden 50 degree heat wave startles me out of a long hibernation. Then it hits me; the burning, itching, prickling need to plant something. Before long a fever comes on and I become delirious with frenzied garden ideas swirling in my head. Can I convince the landlord to dig a garden? Should I expand my container garden? What variety of tomatoes do I want to grow this year? Should I get really adventurous and try to start asparagus from seed? I wonder if I can get mammoth sunflowers to grow in the alley outside the privacy fence? Can I convince my pal with 40 acres to let me plant some perennial herbs...? Then the seed buying starts. Those little packets with dozens of tiny, organic, heirloom seeds with so much potential start jumping into my hand at the co-op and into online shopping carts. Trips to the garden center become absolute necessity. I have lost control in my delirium...
Seeing as how Minnesota is a (mostly) Zone 4 state, (the new USDA hardiness zone map has placed parts of Minnesota in Zone 5), the quest to avoid overspending on plants means painstakingly nursing seedlings indoors over - as some 'Sotans like to say - a couple, three months. Without a greenhouse, it is not an endeavor for the lighthearted. This year I planted my first seeds on March 20th; the vernal equinox, marking the first official day of spring. Since then, I have had flats and pots gradually taking over my living room. A 72 cell flat of asparagus, (out of which one sprouted.
Argghh! Time to start over!), a variety of herbs including Hibiscus, Chamomile, basil, thyme, mint, chives, echinacea and lavender, (which also had to be re-started) and some veggies. I rigged a grow light with a florescent and an electronic piano stand behind the couch and put together a small hot house from a bakers rack and parked it in the driveway. It was easily constructed with tape and some random scraps of plastic that my loving partner snagged from his warehouse per my request. Most of the plants live within the safe confines of the plastic, or on the patio table on the warm days, and cozy up in the living room on cool days and nights. Obviously, this means I am moving them daily - outside in the morning, then inside at night - always trying to place them within a balanced environment of light and temperature, rescuing them from a sudden downpour, or from an unexpected heat spike, or the cats who have overturned a pot in their decision to spat about who is going to sleep in the window... More than once I have had to call Josh from work because I forgot to put the hothouse flap up, (or down dependent on weather conditions). It's a labor of love and possibly more demanding than owning a puppy.
Now, after months of diligently servicing their every need, some of my plant babies are thriving, some are not and some have been lost. It's all part of the process, and each time, there is more to be learned. Next year I won't leave my Hibiscus out over night until temps stay above 60 degrees. I will wait to start lavender outside once nighttime temps are around 40 degrees and I will cold stratify asparagus seed and separate them from the berry pulp.
All in all, it's still only May and the gardening has just begun! I can't wait to reap the rewards of the bounty. Let 'er rip!