post by Cheryl Corson
I plan my gardening around the sun, and at this time of year I want to be in the herb garden from around 10am and noon when it shines across the corn field and reflects off the yellow brick of our house warming the soil and my back as I work.
I start out with a winter jacket and quickly go back inside for a lighter sweater, heavier pruners, and a little low bench to sit on as I wrestle with last year’s woody lavender stalks. I am decisive, cutting only about 6” from the crown. There are ten lavender plants and after the last one there is a mountain of stalks with pale grey leaves behind me. What would I do in a city garden where I couldn’t throw cuttings behind my back without looking? I massage the soil, removing early henbit and wild onion, revealing clusters of deep green daffodil tips about an inch high. My hands, the plants, and the air are full of lavender scent.
Next is the lemon and orange thyme I planted last year. Already new foliage has sprouted at the long ends of last year’s thin woody stalks, but I cut it back, knowing that it will be fuller and healthier later despite the short term loss. I can take some inside to cook with. Before my hand gets too sore I also do the sage and rosemary. By now the fragrance of all these is heavy in the air. It’s the big reward of working in the herb garden this early. And that’s good because it sure doesn’t look like much yet. It’s also nice to easily brush away the autumn leaves that have formed dense mats around each plant. The earlier you get out there the less tender new foliage there is to be careful of as you work.
It’s windy and a hawk calls out as it rides the air waves high above the corn field. When I still had chickens this would be cause for alarm and a quick head count, but today I welcome the hawk’s greeting.
I’ve done as much as I can do in one sitting. As I eat some bean soup in the kitchen looking out at what seems like an enormous pile of cuttings for a relatively small garden bed, I ponder whether to use the wheel barrow or the larger wagon to haul it all to the edge of the woods by the vegetable garden. The sun has gone behind the clouds. I need to get back outside quickly before my resolve fades and the piles are left to blow around like tumbleweed.
Cheryl Corson is a gardener, writer, and landscape architect. Her website is www.cherylcorson.com