Winter's passed

I think we made it.  Through winter.  I mean, I don't think it's coming back.  It hit me, not earlier this week when I was sweating in a T-shirt or burning the back of my neck in the summery sunshine.  It hit me this evening, when I was walking my friend's dogs in Westmoreland Park, looking toward a rainbow stretching up from a field of camas and buttercup, realizing I was wearing only a thin sweatshirt a few hours after a thunderous downpour.  Just a few weeks ago, such a rain would have chilled me to the bone.  There wouldn't have been any tulips to catch those droplets, or steam swimming up off the freshly tilled fields as the sun shone through the thunderheads.  There's still a couple weeks until the average last frost date here, but this feeling of relief-- six months in the making-- is too great to let that sway me.  Winter's passed, I say!  We made it.

And it's a good time to take stock, because plants everywhere are shooting out growth like never before.  The stinging nettles near the Youth Farm nursery are suddenly thigh-high, and the perennial herbs in the farm stand garden have all sprouted and started to fill out.  Every time I walk through the nursery, I'm shocked by how much bigger one crop or another is: today the basil seemed to double in size, tomorrow it'll be the lettuces.  It's easy to lose track as the train keeps chugging away, faster and faster it seems, and it's all we can do to keep the new seedling trays from drying out in a burst of afternoon sun.

There's one project that can't get lost in this hazy flow of days and weeks, though.  The summer plant sale is now somehow only two weeks away, and my mind is constantly buzzing with all the projects that seem minor but end up taking half my days.  This morning it was finishing potting up the tomatoes, closing up the overflow nursery to push growth on the sale starts, fishing out labels, and pricking and filling out melons, watermelons, and cucumbers.  It takes a lot of my mental energy to do this in vivo organizing, as well as tactile attention to not distress the fragile cucurbit roots. 

Transferring cucumber seedlings to fill out pots for the plant sale

Transferring cucumber seedlings to fill out pots for the plant sale

There's also labeling of all the starts, which other folks tackled after I'd sorted and set out all the bundles of labels we had so far.  A seemingly endless amount more labeling is yet to come, but they made a big dent in it today by labeling most of the 3-inch pots of peppers, eggplants, and basil in the main nursery.  

And a conundrum: though I'm so sure winter's over, and everything seems to be growing too quickly, there's a stretch of trays for the plant sale that just aren't popping fast enough.  The brassicas, beets, cilantro, lettuce blends, and some other minor crops took a couple weeks to sprout (I think it was the new moon keeping them underground) and are now taking their sweet time sending out true leaves.  It's like the nursery's laughing at us for thinking we can control the timing of plants' growth to have them all perfectly ready on the same date.  As if we can control anything out here.  

No, we can't force the plants to grow any faster.  For all my humming today, I don't think any of them will get on board just because I serenaded them.  What might convince them to grow a bit faster?  I can close up the greenhouse doors to trap heat and keep their home that much further from winter, and we can cover them with bright white row cover to trick them into an early summer growth spurt.  We can even haul them next door to the heat mats to make them forget their roots had ever felt chilly.  To make it to this arbitrary deadline of May 12th, the day of the next plant sale, they need to feel as clearly as I did this evening that winter's passed.  I hope they burst in the next week, like there's nothing more to be afraid of and the whole sweet summer lies before them.  Like winter has truly passed.  After all, from dormant seeds to tender radicles to sun-kissed sprouts, they've made it, too.