The white-blue glow of grow lights tucked into a corner of my kitchen casts a harsh and eerie glare that clashes with the yellow warmth thrown by fixtures hanging from the ceiling.
Their cool appearance is a bit of an irony, given the comfortable heat they throw on the dirt filled containers beneath them. The brightness that my two grow lamps radiate is a beacon for me, inviting me over to inspect what they’re shining down upon, to watch nature forced into action.
But I should know, a watched seed never grows.
Still, those rays of light pouring into the heated indoor greenhouse beneath them are symbolic of the release I feel of energy pent up over the winter. It has waited impatiently to be expended on another season’s promise in the garden, starting with seeding the plants that will become my company in the yard this summer, my meals in the fall.
This week, I broke out my early gardening season supplies — lights, pods, seeds, soils, and heated bed — and broke free of the cold weather season that was, not that it felt like much of a winter this year anyway, though the calendar deemed it so.
I set about seeding 60 red Wethersfield and yellow Borettana onions, 20 Spigiarelli broccoli seeds, Lacinato kale and Georgia southern collards. Ten Corno di Toro Giallo — sweet, mildly spicy yellow peppers — joined them in a warm, moist earth bed, catching that fluorescent glow that will spur them along.
There are cucumbers at the ready, oh so sweet melons, scarlet Nantes carrots and Sutton’s harbinger peas, too. And, of course, there will be a long list of tomato plants that will eventually join them.
It’s not as though my postage stamp-sized yard has grown over the winter — the one in which garlic, chard and bloody dock are the only edibles that seem to really thrive. Instead, I will be borrowing someone else’s backyard to reap what I’ve just sown.
You can call this generous homeowner a YIMBY because she invited me to take over her unused sunny swath on Scott Street in St. Catharines after letting me scale her towering Kieffer pear tree last fall for The Garden of Eating – Niagara.It’s not a huge backyard by any stretch but one whose space has been maximized by her greenthumb parents who lived there before her, divvying the square lot into beds for vegetables and flowers that see the sun morning to night while basking in the added warmth of light bouncing off a white brick wall nearby.
Sorry if I seem like I’m waxing poetic about something as pragmatic as vegetable gardening but truth is, I can’t wait to starting digging in the earth again, getting dirt under my nails.
My impatience is helped along by the knowledge that I’ll have a garden where everything really does seem to be in the proverbial cards — space, sunlight and soil that has been nurtured through its years of use and protected in its dormancy of late.
My attempts at using what I have at my condo, where the sun’s presence and room to grow is scant, have given me a complex about my gardening (in)abilities and this summer will be the true test, provided Mother Nature is in a good mood, of that green thumb of mine with its seemingly unshakable brown tinge.
I will be embarking upon my latest gardening adventure with my friend Rowan, a fellow proponent of local food security who is working to bring a food store to downtown St. Catharines.
All we have to do is clean up a tiny corner of the borrowed yard that has grown into a mish-mash of weeds and fuzzy lamb’s ears in exchange for use of a swath brimming with what seems like guaranteed gardening glory.
Those remnants of landscaping gone wrong will be replaced with bee friendly flowers. Yes, I want my garden teeming with those hard-done-by pollinators or at least make whoever shows up feel welcome.
It’s a small fee for a summer’s access to land and water and the bounty at the end of it all.
Spring starts officially in less than a week. But in that corner of my kitchen where that acerbic grow-light glare and gentler luminosity spilling from frosted lampshades collide, it has already begun.