“Wow,” I said to Kris at dinner last night. “This pasta sauce is great.”

She smiled: “I made it. From tomatoes we grew last summer.”

I give Kris a hard time for all the attention she pays her tomatoes during the spring. She treats them like babies. She pampers them. But if the payoff is pasta sauce like this, I shouldn’t complain.

The next few days are important for our household’s frugal agenda. The first weekend in May is when we plant out our vegetable garden. If the rain has stopped by the time I get home this afternoon, I’ll till the soil. (Otherwise I’ll wait for Sunday, which promises sunny skies and highs near 70.) We’ll divide the plot into sections: one for tomatoes, one for corn, and one for other crops. The peas and potatoes are already up, as are the turnips. The blueberries have blossomed, and so have the fruit trees. The grapes have pink leaves and buds. The caneberries are growing vigorously.

Tomorrow we’ll attend the Master Gardeners’ spring plant sale. Nursery suppliers from across Oregon’s Willamette Valley will gather at the local fairgrounds. Other happy gardeners will join us to wade through the mud, pulling wagons, loading cars and vans with plants and tools and trellises. Kris will hunt for the best deals on vegetable starts, annuals, and herbs. I’ll pick up a few chili peppers. We’ll look for another shade tree. (Shade trees are an awesome frugal source of insulation, blocking the sun in the summer, letting the light through in the winter.)

On Sunday we’ll take these plants — and the huge collection that has been thriving under our grow lights for the past three months — and plant them in the newly tilled soil. After that, it’s only a matter of time. We’ll care for the plants and wait for them to bear fruit.

First up: the strawberries, which have been in full blossom for the past week. With luck, the rains will diminish. (Last year we had a rainy May, and this made for lousy berries. I called them “waterberries”.) For my part, I’m eager for late summer. That’s when the blackberries come on. That’s also when we subsist for weeks at a time on the best salsa ever.

If you’re growing a garden this year, watch for local plant sales over the next few weekends. Purchasing vegetable starts is an excellent way to supplement the seedlings you may already have.

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