February 16, 2009
My Uncle Tommie always planted by the moon. He kept a Farmer’s Almanac http://www.almanac.com/ I mean the old fashioned paperback kind that has been around since 1792. He also had a calendar that marked each day as to whether it was fertile and good for planting or a barren day according to the position of the planets. It marked good fishing days too and he loved to fish. Something must have worked because he was a phenomenally successful fisherman and his garden was the most prolific of anyone in the neighborhood.
This past weekend, Saturday and Sunday were both fertile days and excellent for planting. Saturday we went shopping for seeds. It is still too early and cold for any vegetable plants to be sold at the local garden shops. Shopping for seeds is an exercise in speculation and dreaming. It is so easy to be seduced by the luscious pictures on the packages. It is so tempting to over-buy because, “oh wouldn’t it be wonderful to have . . . .” Albert tried to be practical and wanted to buy seeds for vegetables that are most expensive to buy at the grocer. The problem is some of those vegetables are expensive because they are much fussier about their light, water and soil requirements. That’s why the ripe veggies rack up the bigger grocery bill. We compromised with an assortment of beans, greens, onions, beets, squash, cucumbers and herbs. All of this is a tiny plot about 6 feet by 10 feet. What were we thinking.
Sunday morning dawned sunny and beautiful with just a hint of chill in the air. That afternoon we decided to finish working the turned soil in the garden patch. By the time, we garbed ourselves in gloves, gathered shovels and rakes and actually began to work, the warming sun had crept behind the clouds. What had been a promising bright morning was now overcast and gloomy. In the desert, gloomy is not a bad thing because it is rather unusual and it means that the sun isn’t cooking the back of your neck but today is even too grey and dreary for the mockingbird to appear. Spring is so brief here in El Paso. If we don’t get the seeds planted soon, it will be far too hot for the new seedlings. They will wither and dry up in the harsh sun. So now is the time for planting. Too soon, they freeze. Too late, they cook. It is a delicate balance.
Nothing got planted on Sunday. It took us until dark to finish breaking up the hard clods of dirt and separating grass from the soil. There is an interesting thing about grass in the desert. My experience is that it grows best where you don’t want it at all. Once we start watering the new seeds, every bit of grass we don’t remove will become a plant-strangling Audrey that will choke out our delicate seedlings. The bed is soft and level now and our shoulders and backs ache with the effort. The last step will be to plant the seeds and scatter compost from the compost bin over the seeds to tuck them in. We also need to devise a way to keep Fanny, the Wonder Dog from lolling in the plant bed. Wherever we work, there she must be too. If it interesting to us, then she knows our feelings would be hurt if she doesn’t show an interest. That means a fence, or something.
The next fertile days are Thursday and Friday. Can we get everything in order by then? Next weekend are barren days. The only possible weekend is the 28th. The Farmers’ Almanac doesn’t take into account that some farmers teach for a living and have no daylight hours on weekdays for their farming. The bed is ready, the seeds are ready, the soaker hose is ready. What we need now is a good planting day, no freezing nights and some sun. And time.