March 20, 2015

Circle of Plant Life, Kevorkian-Style - Photo by Cyn Cady (HobbyFarms.com) 

Spring is springing, people, and that means change. It’s the time of year when the hills change from brown to green, when the trees change from barren to blossom, and when I change into The Plant Murderer.

Here in the coastal valleys of Northern California, we’re lucky enough to garden year-round. But that means that at some point, we’ve got to make room for a new batch of plantings, and we don’t have snow and ice to do our dirty work for us. We’ve got to put on our Hat of Destruction and go for it.

Last April, I planted kale and chard that are still growing like mad. I can leave the chard in place, as it’s still producing beautiful, long, dark leaves. The kale, however, has been pretty well picked over, and it now has small puffy tufts of leaves atop thick, lumpy stalks, looking for all the world like Dr. Seuss’ truffula trees.

Likewise, the cabbages I planted much earlier never really did anything, and the fall broccoli is pretty much done for. However, the innocent little plants are still struggling along. What if they rally? What if the broccoli manages a miraculous rebirth? What if those kale plants suddenly start sprouting all up and down their stems? What then?

Circle of Plant Life, Kevorkian-Style - Photo by Cyn Cady (HobbyFarms.com) 

But it has to be done. I harden my heart, grab my trowel, and start slashing and burning. Well, OK, not actually burning, but a kind of figurative burning in that I am destroying big sections of my garden like human napalm. Muttering excuses like “crop rotation” and “soil replenishment,” I tear the poor sad looking plants of yesteryear out by the roots. I keep visions of juicy tomatoes and new, lush kale plants firmly in my head as I grit my teeth and tug.

Circle of Plant Life, Kevorkian-Style - Photo by Cyn Cady (HobbyFarms.com) 

But look! Pristine soil, ready for amendments, fertilizer and new plantings! Soon, seedlings will be poking up their tiny green heads for a look around; the promise of microgreen salads and the deliciousness of miniature radishes sautéed in a dollop of butter as I thin the rows … memories of my stint as the Kevorkian of plant life fade as they are replaced by dreams of zucchini blossom fritters, thick tomato sauces, and tasty arugula and spinach gratins. I can almost hear the seedlings I have under grow lights in the garage wailing like newborns, eager to stretch their little roots beyond the confines of their starter pots.

Soon, I’ll gently slide them out of their containers and slip them carefully into their new homes in the Fortress Garden. They’ll grow and prosper all through the summer, into the shorter, cooler days of fall when the tomatoes stop ripening, the squashes stop producing, and the lettuces are bolting. And one day, I’ll appear at the garden gate, a mad gleam in my eye, and the Trowel of Death in my hand. Bwahahahahhaaaaa.

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