Mother Nature is one tough mama

Either I have a knack for meeting a lot of garden folk in this town, or Lawrence is just full of people who like to grow green things. It’s starkly apparent during this time of year-when the unseasonably warm days spark conversations of an early spring that evokes a gleam in the eyes of knowing growers. No matter how you slice it, everywhere you look in our community people are ready for warmer climes, longer days, and a promised end to winter’s bleak and naked landscape.

If you’ve ever successfully grown your own anything — be it flower, tomato or herb — you know what I mean. From the arrival of the first seed catalog — multi-hued and glossy, with its tempting vintage seed packets and earthy adornments — winter’s enchanted garden reverie has begun. For me, pair it with a hot cup, a cozy spot and a few choice books, and I’m set for a glorious daydream season of planning the next epic harvest.

After over a decade of coaxing the fruit and leaf of plants, I’ve learned that my garden exploits have only taught me — like so many other of life’s lessons — that I have so much more to learn. Like many of my growing friends (that means all of you L-town growers!), I take refuge in the Library.

Together we seek, along with the newest trends and most reliable knowledge, the answers to last year’s garden tribulations. Hunting out companion plants, organic methods and permanently sustainable growing practices that will not only bring forth our own nourishment but also that of the land, the water and the air. Don’t be fooled; gardening is not a passive sport. If given the right opportunity, it will draw you into its cyclical rhythm, hook right into your soul and stare you down straight in the eye. Mother Nature is one tough mama.

If your garden passions lead you here to the library, like mine do, take heed of these great titles in LPL’s fantastic garden collections:

Your new go-to expert: If you want to know how far to space your lettuce, how to plant leeks from seed, or find out what in the world Scorzonera is, “The New Vegetable & Herb Expert” is your brainy new best friend. Keep it close by throughout the growing season from seed to harvest.

It’s all about community: Something magical happens when folks get together to grow great food. People talk, connect and listen to each other and the plants. Want a practical handbook about creating that perfect blend of people and food? Check out “Start A Community Food Garden” which tackles everything from meeting agendas to mobilizing volunteers to seasonal shindigs that keep both the community and garden humming.

Pop culture gardening: Level-up your raw green smoothies by learning how to grow them in your own backyard. “The Green Smoothie Garden” takes you from seed to blender with tips on growing, harvesting and honing your smooth mixologist skills.

A fresh take on permaculture: Whether you have a postage stamp or a hectare, you can integrate permaculture principles wherever you grow. “Edible Landscaping With A Permaculture Twist” is a win-win for any home garden. You get all of the beauty of natural landscaping plus the bounty of its harvest. Have more space? Try “Integrated Forest Gardening,” which is sure to be the next great permie handbook for food forestry — the pinnacle of permaculturing.

One tough garden: Despite increasing climate-related changes in seasons, temperatures and precipitation, you can confidently grow a great garden with “The Undaunted Garden.” This updated classic takes on the tough growing conditions that growers shy away from and gives serious recommendations for plant friends that will thrive in any growing condition.

Make peace with wildlife: Are you tired of fighting against the forces of nature in your garden? Would you like to learn a growing style that invites the benefits of wildlife? “The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener” and “How to Create a Wildlife Garden” will teach you how to accept and facilitate the gifts that nature offers any growing garden.

The siren call of next year’s great harvest is most alluring and if you feel — like I do — that you have become a full-fledged member of the garden mafia, then I wish you luck, my friend. May your best-laid garden plans result in your health and happiness and more than a few exploits of your own for 2017.

By the way, LPL launched its third Annual Seed Library on February 20th. This year we partnered with Just Food to bring more seeds and programs. Stop by to pick up free flower, herb and vegetable seeds for your garden. And look for plenty of resources and educational programs to help get your garden growing. Just remember, it doesn’t get any more local than your own backyard.

-Gwen Geiger Wolfe is an information services and public health librarian at the Lawrence Public Library.