This is the time of year I live for. The heavy coats and sweaters are put away, and the shorts and tee shirts are brought to the front of the drawers and closet. The quilts and blankets are washed, hung on the line and stored away and the windows are thrown wide open to allow for the fresh breezes to wash away the stale air. And the best part – that breeze carries the warm spring smell of freshly tilled dirt and mown grass. It’s time to play in the dirt!

Yesterday, after the final meeting for the year of The Farm Women Exchange group, I came home to find Randy working on Danny’s big tractor and tiller. Kathleen and Lorea followed me home from the meeting, and we sat on the back steps to visit, while Randy finished cleaning the tiller, in order to get our garden prepped. While the three of us sat there, watching the cows graze and discussing everything from working calves (Lorea), rogue possums (Kathleen) and thistles in need of cutting (me), I could feel the whole world start to slow down, and heard the whisper of Mother Nature’s sigh as she stretched and shrugged off the winter blues.

The very first thing I planted in my garden was Chandler Strawberries. The jury is still out on whether I will like them from beginning to end (planting to eating), but the first consideration was that they were the only strawberries we could find. As usual, I read up on them, and found that they have great flavor, are easy to grow in the South and spread quickly. I like that aspect of them. The downside is, I’m thinking they’ll take a little more attention and care, as they are more susceptible to diseases, including anthracnose (a fungus that causes dark, sunken lesions on various parts of the plant – often called leaf blight). The other downside is that they aren’t the absolute best for preserving, but they are great for freezing. Still, with Danny and Randy hanging around, I usually don’t have enough peaches or strawberries left to can, as they love to sit under the shade tree and eat all my fruit while they visit.

I also managed to plant five rows of Great Northern beans (another trial for this year), and five rows of Limas. In laying out the rows, Randy left me about a three foot swatch between the edge of the garden and the first row, and there I will plant sunflowers. I originally thought I would plant the black oil variety (and then use the seeds for the chickens), but I’m thinking more about a variety, with the tallest in the back and the shortest in the front. Sometimes, it’s the decision making that’s the most fun.

My portion of the garden will be smaller this year, so I can manage it on my own. I will have ten total rows, and those will be cut in half. The half closest to the Davis place is where I planted my beans. The half next to the lane is where my strawberries are planted, and I’ll soon be planting all of my vegetables. This year I’ll be planting just the basics – tomatoes (three or four varieties), bell and jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, snap beans, squash and okra. That will leave me one ‘left over’ row for whatever else I decide to plant – which just might be carrots, this year, if I don’t do some companion planting and put the carrots between the tomatoes. Or will I plant basil as a companion to those red juicy fruits?

Randy planted the rest of the garden in corn. Although he doesn’t mind the vegetable portion of the garden, he absolutely loves the corn. From the disking, tilling and planting, to watching it grow and mature, right down to the breaking (or picking), it’s his favorite part of the garden. The only aspect he doesn’t really love (bust still doesn’t mind) is shucking it. And of course, he leaves the washing it up to me.

Today, I’ll be watching the sky. Every fiber of my being is itching to get out and finish planting. I can almost feel the dirt underneath my fingernails, and the moist particles clinging to my shins and knees where I kneel down to get as close to the earth as I can. My winter-atrophied muscles are begging for a good workout and even my back is willing to ache for a while, just to have the chance to play in the dirt. And my mind and soul are desperate for a good spring cleaning, as the breeze sweeps away the cobwebs that accumulated after being stuck inside all winter due to the extreme weather we were forced to suffer through.

I am ready. Are you? What are you planting this year? Even if you don’t have room for a large garden, at least try your hand at a tomato or other favorite vegetable in a pot, or plant several of your most used herbs in containers. Get creative – use old boots, buckets or even vintage suitcases that aren’t suitable for anything else. Just plant and grow. And let us know what you are doing, and how you are going to use your produce. We are all ready for some new ways to use all the fruits of our labors. And then share with us what you are growing this year, and even feel free to share some photos of your gardens. Send them to my email at thefarmwife@yahoo.com and I will dedicate a post with all the photos and recipes you share. Come on! Give the rest of us gardeners out here some encouragement and some new ideas. We all love trying new things!