Chives, Mint and a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Reader Contribution by Bethann Weick

In sitting down to write this week’s article, it strikes me that these final days of May are the time for describing everything, and nothing.  Each day a new flower appears, a garden plant gets a little taller, the search for slugs goes on, the birds begin singing a little earlier, the river roars with rain until it calms itself down.  On the other hand, we are waiting, anticipating, working towards many things not yet come to fruition.  Our major projects for the summer are discussed and planned, but not yet begun.  Firewood is ongoing, and mentioned so often anyway.  The garden is seeded and planted – and while it seems to change each day, the story of seeds to sprouts is no doubt amply described each year.  The bold unfurling of beans, the confident eruption of asparagus, the delicate awakening of carrots: I know, easy to describe and not exactly new material.  

And of course the weeds. This is the time of ceaseless growth.  Just as I’ve made it through the garden beds tidying rows and freeing young plants from the competition of grass, thistle, dandelion, clover, and sorrel, it’s back to the beginning, it seems.  

And somewhere in the categorical middle ground between weeds and gardens is our herb plot.  This rock ringed area has hosted a particular duel this spring.  Home to both chives and mint (along with lemon thyme, catmint, oregano, horseradish, lavender, and sage), these two titans are vying for increased spheres of herbaceous influence.

Early in the season, chives were ahead in the race for herb garden domination.  Mint – a wild peppermint (my spearmint is much more docile & provincial) – was slower to push it’s way above ground. The earliest round of weeding reined in the chives back to their original plot, eliminating more than a handful of mint weeds along the way.  The aftermath, though, has definitely turned in mint’s favor.  A don’t-take-no-for-an-answer sort of neighbor, this pernicious plant is not only emerging in my paths, coldframe, kale patch, and others, but now also taking on the sorrel, wild strawberries, and brambles that dominate our yard.  

To mark time while this silent but steady process unfolds is our yellow-bellied sap sucker.  Starting at approximately 4:37am, he begins hammering away on, first, our shed roof, then the wheelbarrow propped up outside, then the decorative metal knick-knack tucked in the very same herb garden.  He may not have found his mate yet, but he’s beating a rhythm to which the season unfolds.  As the garden grows lush, plants’ fortunes unfold, the days warm up, and the sun rises earlier and earlier.  The fecundity of spring is bringing us to summer.

Don’t wait any longer – jump start your garden with starts from Beth’s nursery: Choose from select varieties of herbs, flowers, and veggies while supplies last. Garden prep, planting, and weeding services also available. Contact Beth via for your garden and orchard needs.