The feed-and-seed plant sets started showing up a month earlier this year. It was only late March, and I was walking by a brilliant cascade of heirloom tomatoes. "What?" I thought to myself. "Am I the last person to get plants in the ground?" A few weeks later, I noticed that a few of our apple trees must've thought it was already the end of May. Once again I hadn't finished pruning. (Hadn't started, to be honest.)
Our Piedmont has become a three-season gardening-and-harvesting summer dream. Like deciding when to jump in when a colorful jump rope is turning, now always seem a good time to put something in the ground. This spring has opened up the garden, begging me to ask what else can I tuck in early? I think about layers of vegetables, a second planting of Celebrity and Mountain Spring on the 4th of July. Maybe I can spread out the green peppers, which always stay hardy into October. Should I take another chance on figs?
Others are taking advantage of the potential bounty and testing their green thumbs: One neighbor who is already working full-time decided to grow tomatoes for a farmers market and give the rest to a food bank. He's cut down trees and gone in deep on wire tomato cages. When cool breezes and sunny days are just outside the screen door, we're all homesteaders at heart.
My wife and I were grabbing a late dinner a few weeks ago. The chalkboard in front of the restaurant promised a fresh side of sprouts-n-shrooms. I expected traditional alfalfa sprouts, but these were sautéed, quartered Brussels sprouts. It turned out to be the best veggie dish I'd had in years, so the next morning, I went out and raked a new row for my own Brussels sprouts patch. The local supply store obliged. Sorry, spinach family.
Spring can invite you out and just as quick she can tease you back in. Three times this year, we've dodged frost and freeze warnings after our tender plants were in the ground. I dusted off an old thermometer to keep track of my luck. I went out with a flashlight a few times each morning, braving the 5:30 a.m. chill. Thick 2011 leaf mulch is my miracle quilt. Then a hail storm hit. Pounding white ice balls the size of walnuts tore through northern Orange County. Friends called to see if we still had power. They'd seen our intersection highlighted with a severe weather supercell on television. We did lose some old outdoor Christmas lights, and the skylight in the chicken coop shifted a bit.
That's spring for you. It matters not to her that we dawdle on our digital displays; she demurely issues her early invitations to another quietly spectacular season of abundance. She's just out there, more within reach than ever before. She knows we'll slow down and notice her eventually. OK, we do.