Spring gardening, spring writing

Moving back to Indiana from New Mexico in 2011 back meant coming home to family, to Lake Michigan and to good dirt.

No, not dirt – soil. Good soil.

My little Las Cruces, NM, garden included lantana, zinnias and mum that didn't know they weren't supposed to bloom until fall.

My little Las Cruces, NM, garden included lantana, zinnias and mum that didn’t know they weren’t supposed to bloom until fall.

How challenging it was in the Southwest to plant a zinnia in caliche – a hard-packed, calcified crust nearly a quarter-inch thick – only to break through to sand. How I longed to dig into good, rich earth, drop in a little plant, add water and watch it grow. Now I wonder if my longing has gotten a little out of hand.

I’ve long had an interest in gardening. Perhaps Aunt Gladys’s Lily of the Valley first peaked my curiosity. Those little lovelies growing thick alongside the driveway – I can still see them running the length of that brick apartment building on Pearl Avenue. And the fragrance! Oh, my. Nothing like Nature’s perfume to plant a seed in a little girl’s head.

Looking back, everywhere I’ve lived I’ve tried to leave a little garden legacy. There was that vegetable garden in Muncie where I grew a zucchini too big to eat but not too big to be a door stop through fall and winter. I don’t think it even rotted. I just got tired of moving it and threw it out. I can picture red cannas in front of the house in Oklahoma, hostas in the yard in Indianapolis.

But it was volunteering at the Lincoln Park Zoo that gardening really got under my nails. Learning about native plants, invasive species and weeds! I learned more about weeds those three summers. Not a bad skill for a gardener.

Living in townhouses and condos in Chicago meant gardening in shade in one place and in roof deck pots in another. Oh, the pots were wonderful. Zinnias and sweet potato vines were among my favorite combinations.

Then there was that house in Naperville where I inherited a lovely purple clematis. And where I was lured by an early spring to put plants out sooner than Memorial Day – even thought I knew better – only to cover them with plastic sheeting because of mid-May temperature fluctuations. (Maybe with global warming we really can put plants out sooner. That’s the one of the good news/bad news results of our infractions.)

I’ve come full circle now, living at the bottom of the lake and surrounded by sandy loam. While there are still many challenges – deer, ticks, too much sand in some places and so many square feet of earth to cultivate – I love gardening in Indiana. And as a second-year Master Gardener, I’m writing about it, too. In face I have an article due Tuesday for our GardenThyme newsletter ( http://www.pcgarden.info/tag/newsletter/ ) about a useful gardening tool.

Which, reminds me: what’s your favorite gardening tool?

This weekend we Spring Forward! Spring is springing early in northwest Indiana and there is much to be done. Better get to it.


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