Letters from the Garden: Warm Days, Warm Nights

Dear Sangha,

All fingers crossed, we are past the danger of any more nights in the 30s, which means it is time to plant all of the lovely tender garden divas that like it warm. I am talking, of course, about the flats of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants that I have been carefully tending for the last six weeks. First they started as tiny babies on heat mats in my room, then graduated up to four-inch pots, and recently have been living outside except for cold nights when I hauled them all back into the safety of the garage after evening zazen. The big day came this past week, when we planted them all out in the real soil, trusting them to grow into themselves from now on. Lil babies, all grown up.

Peppers and eggplants

But the nightshades (Solanaceae: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, as well as potatoes) aren’t the only plants who need the heat. This past week was also the big day for planting another family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, cucumbers, and melons. Last October I really missed picking pumpkins, which has been an essential ritual marking fall for me since I was very young. Pumpkin seeds are huge and quick to grow, and so are extremely fun to plant at any age, but especially for little hands. Planting and picking pumpkins were always my favorite garden tasks as a kid, and my body associates anticipation of the first fall frost with the excitement of hunting for fat orange pumpkins among a forest of squash vines. Then you know frost has come when you wake up and all the vines are wilted, because they die at the first touch of cold.

Pumpkins! Just one hill of many, I assure you.

Because I was so sad we didn’t have squash last year, of course this year I planted an enormous pumpkin patch, possibly an irresponsible number of pumpkins. Looming pumpkin apocalypse aside, I reason it’s totally worth it for the joy they bring, but also they store well and we can eat them all winter. Most of what I planted this year are kabocha (two types), but also a variety called Long Island Cheese (comes from Long Island, looks flat and round like a wheel of cheese, supposedly delicious for baking, I’m very excited), and butternut squash. Plus some summer squash, as well as both pickling and eating cucumbers, which are not squash but planted like squash. Also I’ve never tried to grow melons before, but this year I’m giving it a try with a variety called Petit Gris de Rennes, which is a French variety of small, sweet cantaloupe. This is a year for many new things. If you can’t tell I’m excited…I’m very excited. I have visions of a squash jungle climbing over everything and spreading joy and pumpkins everywhere.

Helpful monks doing some hard labor in order to get things into the ground these past few weeks.
It’s really been a lot of work and I am so grateful for all the help.
This one just helps chase the sticks.
It feels good.

I’m missing all of you, and hoping you can get outside and enjoy the warming weather, wherever you are.

Lots of love,
Sansei


Letters from the Garden: Permission to Be, May 8, 2021

Letters from the Garden: Work Week, April 17, 2021

Letters from the Garden: Planting Good Seeds, April 3, 2021

Letters from the Garden: Dharma Blossoms, March 20, 2021

Letters from the Garden: The First Birdsong, March 6, 2021