Planting Seeds in the Cruelest Month

Monday, April 4, 2011
First sprout up: basil

T.S. Eliot betrayed his Midwestern roots when he wrote in the Modernist poem The Waste Land: “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”

April, if you live in northern Minnesota, is a good time of year to not be at home. Around here, the month brings lingering ice, lurking snow banks and April showers that come in the form of snow. Meanwhile, mud season makes a bold entrance, so that even as Old Man Winter refuses to give up his icy grip over the land, mud splatters pant legs and dirt get dragged indoors on shoe soles and ground into the rugs. Vacuuming becomes a twice daily chore and during the slow melt that is April, even snow grows dirty.

Throw in Tax Day and we’ve got a rip roarin’ good time up here this month.

It probably comes as no surprise after that flattering description that I try to spend as much of April away from the Ol’ North Woods as possible. Last year saw Andy and I jetting off to the Pacific Northwest and I followed that up with a reunion trip to NYC. This year I’m headed to . . . maybe the Twin Cities for a weekend?

As you might imagine, attempting to avoid an entire month is a rather expensive proposition and this year, the old wallet wasn’t up to the task.

But I’ve been planting seeds.

The very end of March and early April mark the prime time for starting the summer vegetables and flowers. Because I’m usually gone during this span of time, my seeds usually get started closer to the first week of May and those seedlings are pretty piddly and sad when it comes time for outside planting. This year, the seeds got started right on schedule.

As I planted my tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflowers and flowers Saturday I was reminded of the uncertainty that surrounds every thing we do. The directions on the little Jiffy greenhouses I purchases told me to put two to three in each little seed pod. There’s no knowing which seeds will germinate and from the seeds that do sprout, which ones will weather the transplanting into the garden and of those, which of those will produce. I tried to get nicotiana planted in the pods, the seeds so teeny they seemed to disappear on my finger tips and thought, “it’s a miracle these can amount to anything noticeable at all.”

In the misty, grey chill that is April, ennui tends to be the prevailing emotion. But if I’m going to spend the whole accursed month up here, then I might as well commit to getting 1000 words written on the current novel in progress each morning before anything else happens. Unless I keep planting seeds, I can’t expect anything to grow and blossom in the warmer months to come.


  1. Oh I hear ya, sister! Couped up doesn't even begin to describe it.

    Hang in there, Spring will be here soon...or else that's what I keep telling myself ;-)

  2. What a beautiful post! I'd love to read your novel one day! and until then, I hope you will keep us posted on the progress of your garden. Have a great April, as good as can be!

  3. Yep, pretty messy all around. We went biking yesterday and of course the boys rode through every puddle (and there are alot!) so their backs were wet with mud and water. I'm behind on my planting--going to do it today. Good luck writing!

  4. If you do least you have that new vaccuum to suck up all the dirt? Just trying to look at the bright side : )
    I really hope you get to start on your writing, I'm positive it's going to be an incredible read!

  5. Come to the twin cities! It's actually been pretty mild lately and is supposed to warm up this next week :)

  6. *This* is a huge downside to living in the city... Yes, I live in LA. Yes, I am lucky enough to be in a townhouse style apt. Yes, I am even more lucky to have a balcony. But alas, I do not have any land for planting. I do go the potted route, but it just isn't the same.....

  7. Oh nice!! I can't wait to plant some seeds! Just that there's no point in doing that before we move to our new house, and then it's already too late...:(

  8. I spent all Saturday afternoon tilling up soil, adding fertilizer and planting a bunch of veggie seeds. I even planted some flowers. It's an awful month, yet a month of new beginnings for sure!!!

  9. How fun (not the whole gloomy April thing but the garden). My husband and I still have to get started on our garden for this year. It is one of the most fulfilling things to grow your own herbs and vegetables, and I love this time of year because of it. April is Georgia is a bit miserable as well, but not for any of the same reasons. In Georgia, instead of snow we have POLLEN, and for the entire month, I won't be able to breathe, much less go outside and enjoy the weather.

    Good luck with your novel! I need to set a similar goal for myself.

  10. I'm in the Midwest and praying his descripion in accurate, as it's our first Spring out here. I moved from the East Coast and back in my husband's old stomping grounds, tshirts are being worn. :( I miss warmth and watching plants grow. Since we have no garden here yet and have to wait a year, I am enjoying looking at other blogs to see what is being grown so far.

  11. I'm so excited to start a veggie garden this year, and i need to get started on my seedlings. I started my herb garden from seeds last year and i'm hoping to have the same success with veggies!


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