garden,  Vermont

the June garden

I just ate a lunch of cold chicken and pickles, dollop of dijon. All prepared one-handed because the baby wanted to sit with me. Cold, perfectly bitter coffee to my left, some leftover chocolate torte that I didn’t make correctly–the crust was like butter gravel–but no one noticed. There are at least five glasses of water strewn across the table.

Feels like it’s time for a June garden update.

Maybe the girls will remember the first summer their parents gardened. When their mother invited them individually to see orange cherry tomatoes, as if one tomato every three days was enough to satisfy any appetite. When their dad marked the distance before planting the strawberry seedlings we got from the local parks commission. When the wild grass grew up so quickly around everything we planted that you had to tramp it down just to check on the plants.

When only two of the carrot seedlings came up, and none of the cucumbers.

I reseeded both for a second try; hoping for a very mild early October around here. I’m such a novice that I often read the back of the seed packets three or four times before planting, carrying a ruler with me to get the spacing right. I have two gardening manuals, one Vermont specific and one hardcover from my Maine gardening guru, Barbara Damrosch. I over-research the simplest things, it is my way.

I visit the hall of wonders at the farmer’s market. I cannot believe what they have. We have a single carrot sprout the size of a blade of grass and they are selling bundles of carrots for $3. “They’re probably using row covers,” my friend says. STILL.

-This is AMAZING, I say to one of the vendors.

-I think so, he says, pleased.

The peas haven’t given a single hint that there will ever be actual peas to eat, but the plants themselves are adorable gangly teenagers that Joe and I check on every morning. We find them entangled with each other and any wayward grasses that crossed their path, eager tendrils wrapped around each other’s necks. “Fair Romeo,” one whispers.

One variety that I picked out of the catalog for its garnishing ability has frizzly spastic threads, as if they brushed themselves with an electric hairbrush.

My favorite time to go out is in the evenings after bedtime. Bedtime is a light term here, meaning children have been tucked into their beds, but are likely to chatter and pull books off their shelves for the next two hours. In the morning when I wake them it looks like it rained books overnight; books drip gently off the edge of the beds and pool together on the floor.

The baby isn’t really into daytime naps, so when she goes down for the night a light, loving load lifts off my shoulders. I love to sneak out and pull weeds for fifteen minutes of actual productivity; frowning at what I think might be onion strands emerging at last.

Now I know why people fall for zucchini! It’s so cheerful and easy to grow. Their leaves crisp softly between your fingers like toast. I planted it for its blossoms but the seedlings have come up so beautifully I’ll probably end up with zucchini bounty, just like the rest of them.

The three-year-old styles herself like a member of a local ladies pie society. She and I both love the peppery nasturtium blossoms we planted near a stone wall. It feels wild plucking the blossoms off the plant and munching the soft, brilliantly orange petals between your lips; like a horse eating clover.

The milkweed in the field is about to blossom and I’m so excited to see how the butterflies like it. They’ve been making do with the wilted lilac and the cheery but tiny purple catmint flowers (pictured here). I can feel my excitement for their satisfaction in the new nectar, that’s how much I’m looking forward to it.

common milkweed

We planted a little strawberry patch that will give fruit next year, but all the wild strawberries we’ve since found in the fields have made it feel a little silly. They are scattered everywhere; I love hunting for them. A few patches have reddish ants that have claimed ownership of them. These ants greet you with a numbing-sting bite if you touch their strawberries.

But they haven’t found all the patches.

And there is a snake who loves to soak up sun on the path to the peach trees I bought on clearance at Home Depot last Fall. The peaches, though they were likely raised down south, have set out fruit after their first Vermont winter.



  • junglewife

    I just have to share one of my favorite memories of Ross. Our grandpa always had a vegetable garden, and one summer we were in his yard, and Ross had just learned the word “doubt”. I think he must have been about 3 years old, maybe a little younger. I was with him and we were looking at the tomatoes, and he kept saying, over and over, “I DOUBT the tomatoes. I DOUBT the tomatoes.”

  • Lindsay Reinold

    Your writing is just gorgeous!! I feel like I just got to escape for just a minute to your beautiful Vermont garden 🙂

  • Laurie

    Hi Rachael 🙂 I’m a long time reader from the NH seacoast, homeschooling mom of 4 kiddos, 7 and under. My #4 was born feb 28th. 🙂 I’m an amateur gardener too and my favorite thing to grow (especially with the kids) is radishes. I couldn’t tell if you already have some growing but they’re so fun because they come up fast and are only like 3 weeks until harvest. And then if you don’t love them the kids can just pick to their hearts content. 😀 although I have discovered that they’re delicious roasted with oil and seasoning and the kids like them too. ?? Also wanted to comment on your guest homeschooling post a few posts back about the books/authors. Most were authors I know and love but it inspired me to pick up The Quotidian Mysteries which I thoroughly enjoyed. And then I also wanted to add another of my favorites The Unhurried Homeschooler by Durenda Wilson which is what ultimately gave me the nudge I needed to dive into homeschool. 🙂 it’s a quick and easy read but so encouraging. Anyways, I always love reading your posts. So thoughtful and beautifully written.

  • J

    I’m glad you’re back to posting a bit! I hope your recovery from childbirth/4th trimester went well.
    Don’t weeds just grow this year? I’m in NH- the weeds are rivaling my carrots… sigh…

  • Erin

    First year gardener myself. In upstate NY. And having equally spotty success. I’ve just reseeded sunflowers after none of the first round sprouted (I thought they were fool proof?). Here’s hoping for a late frost.

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