How to Plant a Spring Garden When You Really Are Not a Gardener

Spring. Planting time. Knees a little soggy from kneeling in the grass, I’ve been working in the garden.  This morning, my husband and I took a long walk downtown to Annapolis City Dock and then threaded our way through our town’s historic neighborhoods admiring flowers, ferns, trees. We really do live in a beautiful place and the coronavirus has kept us hiding in our houses too long. Back at home, sitting on the ground trying to decide where flowers need to go, again I am mesmerized by  the colors, smells, textures,  and the sounds of birds and insects—although I’m not looking forward to the cicadas.  Even the thought of their whirring sound in my ears causes discomfort. I remind myself they only emerge  every 17 years.  

I’m not much of a gardener.  My mother had a green thumb. She could take any plant, root it and coax it to thrive. Aware of what I lack, I do my best knowing that I’m Inconsistent in my gardening responsibilities.  I don’t feel the urge to weed every day  and while I have the best intentions, I don’t always water twice a day in hot weather. 

To be a good gardener, you have to love the work and feel the need to constantly tend your seedlings as they emerge from the soil. I’m that way about sentences and stories, constantly reexamining which words and phrases are most effective, but I don’t feel the same compulsion to trim dead leaves and clean flower beds.

My advice, keep it simple. Read the directions on which plants like sun and which prefer shade. If it dies, don’t blame yourself. Just recycle the remaining components in the compost section of your yard to create new soil, and plant something new. It’s kind of the way I deal with stories that just don’t work. Sometimes you just need to move on.

Maryland’s hot  summer weather and humidity demands vigilance. Last summer, since we didn’t go anywhere to visit family or take a vacation break—the garden looked pretty good.  Some of the herbs I planted—parsley, mint, and rosemary—survived the winter. The parsley in particular is impressive, with thick hardy stalks. I wasn’t so successful with the basil but I will try again. I’m hoping my husband will plant vegetables again. He’s the better gardener, good at digging deep holes and watering. 

To mix things up, I decided to plant a few Dahlia and Gladiola bulbs purchased at a discount market. I figure if they don’t come up, at least they weren’t expensive. I read the instructions and look at a tape measure to get a visual of four inches, the recommended planting depth and scope out my space.  A few weeds need to be removed and then I start digging. Although I wear gloves and dig with a spade I remove the gloves for planting. I  enjoy feeling the soil against my skin and like to feel the crackly texture of the bulbs. So what if dirt collects in the cracks of my skin and gathers under my nails, it’s fun. 

At the store we pick out some trays of marigolds and geraniums. Instant color and instant success, just in case the bulbs plants never perk their heads up through the soil. Plants, the earth needs them. We all need a little more beauty in our lives. Happy planting.

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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