Spring has come to our picturesque little rural campus. Our mild winter has transformed into a warm spring, and with it have come all the blessings of warmer weather. Taking a stroll across campus presents you with budding trees, blooming flowers and active wildlife.
For me, spring has always meant two things: allergies and gardening. Thanks to a new allergy prescription, my sinuses no longer damn me to mucus-filled misery, leaving me to exercise my green thumb in peace.
Starting a few weeks ago, I’ve had little green sprouts growing under grow lights in my basement, protected from the rare frost. For the past two weeks, I’ve been keeping an attentive watch over tiny basil and tomato seedlings. Surrounding them is a selection of other shoots and cuttings — asters, marigolds, milkweed and vinca vine.
Among this crowd is also a tray of cucumber seedlings, which were inadvertently planted much too early in a zealous sowing session. Their continued growth threatens to crowd out the space needed for the other seedlings, so unfortunately, they will have to be evicted to the porch — placed in the risk of late frosts.
They won’t be alone out there fortunately. The raised beds — which shall be the cucumber's destination — are already planted out with radishes, onions and some lettuce and spinach. The radishes and onions were planted the week before last, so I’ve been keeping a watchful eye as their greenery emerges.
The sowing is not finished — this past weekend, I spent some time starting some pumpkins and zucchini indoors. These two squashes, with their massive leaves, are what necessitated the cucumber’s unfortunate eviction. Next weekend, I’ll be sowing rows of carrots alongside the young radishes.
This past weekend, I spent some time tidying up the yard. It had been left unkempt over winter, filled with dead tomato vines and dried-out flower stems. Part of this was a conscious decision. I decided a few years ago to suspend the use of pesticides and herbicides in my yard, in hopes of reincorporating the space into the surrounding ecosystem. Leaving debris like this serves as habitat for critters as they overwinter, so I happily obliged. Or maybe it was just laziness.
In cleaning up these past couple of weeks, I stumbled upon one of my cherished guests — an ootheca (egg case) belonging to a Carolina mantis. After I confirmed with a biology professor that it was indeed of the Carolina variety, not the invasive Chinese mantis, I rehomed the little ones to a nice spot nearby. Hopefully in the coming months I should have hundreds of little praying mantises roaming my garden, targeting some of my more unwelcome guests.
Being out in nature — even a carefully cultivated garden — is such a wonderful experience. For those who have the space, I cannot overstate how much I encourage you to make yourself a garden, even if it is just a few pots on a porch. Holding up a cucumber, a tomato, or even a carrot and being able to say “I made this” is such a fulfilling feeling.
For those who live on campus, do not worry. The Shippensburg University Campus Farm is just down the road from the Spiritual Center and is always in need of extra hands.