Sow what?

It’s an exciting time, early spring is, and its the time when we fret about timing. Timing is everything. The early crops that favor the cold, seeds that miraculously germinate in near frozen soil are at the top of the To-Do list.  The peas were a little iffy , germination wasn’t happening, I fretted, until I spoke with my sister in Northern Maine who asked, “Do you know what they call March snow in Maine?” No, what? “Pea fertilizer.” It runs out to be true. We had a snowfall the day after we’d sowed the peas, and now, a few weeks later, the peas are looking robust and eager to please.

Meanwhile, the other cold weather crops have been sown; spinach, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, potatoes, onions, shallots, radishes, pac choi, beets, swiss chard, broccoli di raab, carrots, parsnips, and all are coming up with the lengthening days and the fluctuating temperatures.

The greenhouse continues to be a source of great hope and anticipation. The alimentary seedlings; broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower,  tomatoes, eggplant, celery, celeriac, peppers, basil (5 different varieties) leeks and sorrel are going great guns. The ornamantals; lupines, calendula, marigolds (the gem types that we love for their citrusy fragrance and their edible qualities, not to mention their great beauty), larkspur…are all emerging from their dormant seeds and offering promise of a productive and richly colorful gardening season.

Gardening season! Hooray! Bring it on…we’re more than ready!

Planning the Kitchen Garden

In my experience, it’s relatively easy to establish parameters for oneself by committing to a 20’ x 20’ plot and limiting the plantings to fit within those confines. It works in writing and on graph paper. If, however, you’re a dreamer like me, seduced by fantasies of abundance and variety, it doesn’t work all that well, especially after the hibernation of a dark season of long winter evenings spent reading seed catalogs, with a glass or two of wine, a highlight marker and a block of post-it notes. It’s very easy to slide into the 20’ x 35’ plot, or the 30’ x 50’ plot or the 50” x 85’plot, so easy that it’s almost inevitable.

I offer the following example. The first year that we started our vegetable garden, our seed bill was $27 dollars. The next year it was $74 dollars. The size of the garden didn’t alter.  So, what changed? A desire for greater variety; we wanted three kinds of beets, not one, seven different tomatoes, not three, four kinds of squash, not two, etc…

Shakespeare knew something  when he wrote: “Know thyself and to thine own self be true”. But here’s the rub: as a home-gardener, I don’t need 45 zucchini seeds. I need 4, or, if I’m going to sow successively, I need 8, or maybe, at the limit, twelve. The cost of seeds isn’t that expensive but it does add up, especially if you’re like me and want to try all sorts of things.

The fun and economical solution/idea is to share. Get together with other gardening friends during the winter months. Call or e-mail your gardening compatriots in October/November to make sure that they are receiving the same seed catalogues that you are (and e-mail them the links to your favorite seed suppliers if they’re not). Set up a potluck buffet-dinner evening in mid-to-late January to come together and prepare a group order. This will work for either a large Community Garden group or a Rag-Tag band of home gardeners. You could be admirably well organized and list the categories of produce for which you seek seeds for your garden, i.e., tomatoes, corn, squash, lettuce, cucumbers, beets, spinach, etc… You might even use the various catalogues’ categories and headings as a guide. No matter how you do it, remain focused and have a designated someone to keep track of everyone’s shared orders.  If you’re going to be professional about it you could purchase very small ‘Ziplock’-type bags or ‘glassine’ envelopes (in future, you will be directed to a resource link for such products) to divvy up the seeds once they arrive. This is yet another excellent opportunity to share shoptalk with other gardeners and will likely lead to long lasting horticultural friendships.

In future, more to come about Kitchen Gardening.