It is springtime, the most important time of year for a gardener. The grass is greener and the sun shines with more warmth. Gardener-in-training Ava Belchez has learned that this is the time for preparation and new beginnings.
While getting ready for online school every morning, Belchez resists to urge to burst outside and frolic in her backyard. She can hardly wait until the afternoon when she could go outside and be able to get her hands dirty.
“There’s just something about being outdoors in spring,” Belchez said. “It might be the feeling of a fresh start for the garden and the year.”
Belchez learned everything she knows about gardening from her mother, who used the garden as a form of art. She would spend lots of time in the garden, sometimes not coming inside until after dark.
“She would spend hours and hours mending trellises for the climbing beans,” Belchez’s father Chito Belchez said. “She would guide each tendril where to climb.”
Belchez’s father is the heavy-lifter; he carried out her mom’s creative ideas and now builds structures for supporting the plants. Belchez prefers to tend to the plants themselves, planting them neatly in the dirt and then watering them every day.
“It’s always exciting to see a little green plant peeking out of the ground,” Belchez said. “But it also means that you have to work harder to protect it.”
This week, Belchez planted peas in the garden. It was a lovely chance to get outside while the weather was nice, and take a break from homework and chores inside the house, she said.
“You never realize how much you need a breath of fresh air until you get it,” Belchez said. “And you have to snag every sunny day you can get, especially during this time of year.”
Springtime this year has been different, however, because it’s the first spring without Belchez’s mother, who passed away last year. Without her mother’s guidance and ideas, Belchez and her father have had to learn how to make decisions for the garden themselves.
“It can be stressful trying to imagine what she would do or say about the garden if she were here,” Belchez said. “But we can hear her in our memories telling us where to plant things and how to support them.”
Remembering her mother’s advice, Belchez will continue to plant more types of vegetables and flowers as the weeks go on. She especially looks forward to the Mexican sunflowers.
“They are a family favorite,” Belchez said. “And they bring the message that spring is over and summer is about to begin.”