“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” – May Sarton
Last year I moved from Florida to Bonney Lake, south of Seattle. May Sarton’s quote reminds me that acclimatization is a gradual process and my roots have yet to fully latch onto the rocky soil. Gardening is one way that I’m finding my balance and appreciating the “slow circles of nature.”
I’m writing this on May 14, 2022 and it’s still too cold to plant tomatoes in the community garden. The ground has to warm up to above 50 degrees for a whole week before the plants’ roots won’t freeze to death. This rain-weary Floridian is asking if the ground temperature ever went below 50 degrees in the sunshine state? The weather forecasters keep apologizing for the unseasonably frigid spring, which isn’t making me feel any better. Insert crying emoji; I just read that this pattern of cold and rain will last at least another week. According to the National Weather Service Seattle, this spring has been the wettest in 78 years.
And, yet, gardeners here seem to believe that if they plant tomatoes, spring will come. On April 30, the hardware centers received their shipments of the widest selection of seedlings I’ve ever seen. Rolling multi-tiered racks filled with green tomatoes, peppers, beans, and herbs clogged the aisles in the garden center patios. So where is “here?” This is Pierce County near the Puyallup Valley, known for fields of daffodils, tulips, and until blight wiped them out, hops. The county still has acres of farmland and free flowing streams and rivers. One, Chambers Creek, made the news last week because it will be returning to free-flowing status thanks to infrastructure funding that will be used to replace a narrow bridge and remove an old dam. Finally, the salmon will spawn and the fish numbers in the creek will increase.
While the weather is still depressingly cold and drizzly, restoration of creeks and increasing salmon populations inspires hope, even if I’ll have to wait at least another week to plant tomatoes. Things go in cycles. Here the seasons and the sunlight are ever shifting. The ground is rocky, difficult to dig, and the sky is still gray. But, I’m still shopping for tomato seedlings tomorrow; I can already picture the plants heavy with a ripe red crop.