From the Editor

I’ve heard it said that a garden grants wisdom in the winter and joy in spring; I’ve always liked the phrase.

Before I lived in my current house, the man who previously lived here, who built this house on land his family had long worked, planted garlic in the yard.

A proficient and dedicated gardener, he undoubtedly grew other crops too. But his daughter didn’t mention them. Just the garlic, which, she said with obvious pride, had won blue ribbons at the Ag Fair.

In the years since the man’s death, the house had sat mostly empty. The land had overgrown. By the time his daughter graciously led me around the property and agreed to rent it to me, the garden was little more than a tangle of blackberry brambles and poison ivy. Errant garlic scapes pushed through the weeds, like flowers growing in the crack of the sidewalk.

“Do with it what you will,” she said. She hated the idea of the garden her father loved growing into disrepair. I, having spent years bouncing between rentals, often with no outdoor space, wanted nothing more than to get my hands dirty – to honor what had been there and to make the land in some small way my own. I quickly got to work.

In the ensuing weeks, my husband and I enlisted friends to raise the toppled fence posts. We hacked at brambles, laid down weed block, and pulled poison ivy shoots by the roots. One horrendous, itchy outbreak and a prescription for steroids later, we brought in a professional. For an exorbitant fee, he agreed to clear a small patch of land at the far end of the garden. It wasn’t what we envisioned, but it was a start. It was, as it turned out, more than enough.

As spring turned to summer, I scattered zinnia, cosmos, and sunflower seeds in the newly cleared dirt that, now free of obvious poison ivy, still teemed with its oils. I set up raised beds for tomatoes and herbs. I chucked more vegetable seeds into pots.

I planted peas in a large container and watched them sprout and die. I planted more peas, which met the same fate. I watered and weeded and watched and waited, and I loved every moment – even when I traded a beach day for the task of hauling hoses. Even when I worried I was crazy for spending so much time and money on land that was not my own.

I’ve heard it said that a garden grants wisdom in the winter and joy in spring; I’ve always liked the phrase. But as the garden burst into full bloom, I was constantly learning new lessons – that some pests can be deterred using companion plants. That a fence is no match for a hungry vole. That a winter squash will wither on the vine if you disturb its node roots. That peas – aha! – sometimes need an inoculant to grow.

Impatient as I can be, I took comfort in the trial and error of the work – the reminder that nature cannot be hurried, that some mistakes cannot be easily undone.

Some day in the not-distant future, I will return the land to the family of the man whose garlic still peaks out from the vines. For now, I’m grateful to be its steward. This year, when I put aside more money to clear another area of the garden, I will dig up the garlic bulbs to save them from the plow. I will transplant them in soil not ravaged by poison ivy, then dig them up and transplant them again in the fall. With patience and care and thoughtful planning, the garlic will again be a viable crop for the family who will one day return.

In the meantime, I will scatter more seeds and welcome more wisdom and await the joyful miracle that is spring in the garden.