Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Planting Seeds as a form of Optimism


I sowed lettuce and radish outside, last weekend. Robb doesn't believe he likes radishes, but I intend to prove him wrong. Radishes, when young and fresh are delicious.

We've got all sorts of seeds germinating in the room that will some day be an office. Up until last week this was the Crap Dumping Room, but Robb's been trying to weed through all of our random junk, and get us better organized.

Our tomatillos have actually sprouted. There's a tiny, fuzzy, pale root, just poking out of the bottom of each seed. It's very hopeful.

Back when I spent my summers in Cooperstown, working for Glimmerglass Opera, I used to start plants in Maryland, and then drive to New York with a car full of baby plants. Eventually, the tomatillos all re-seeded, and Ellen and I started buying plants from her friends who owned a garden center. As a frustrated garden-less urbanite, I wasn't going to miss one second of growing time. Nevermind that I was only living at the farmhouse for eleven weeks every summer. I planted short season crops, and when I was gone, Ellen and dairy farmers got to eat my veggies. Ellen is a good friend and would usually find a way to bring me a big grocery bag of my tomatoes, first in Maryland, and later when we lived in Connecticut.

By the way, who was the nice person who left a package of garden seeds under our Christmas tree at our party? I know that Allie brought us seeds from her flowers, but who brought the vegetables with the completely bizarre slogan, "¡Está bien comer vegetales que no hablan!"

So what will I be growing? (And do I actually have room for all of it?)

Alyssum: Tiny Tim (supposedly a favorite of beneficial insects and honeybees)
Wild Arugula
Sweet Basil
Beans: Tendergreen Improved Bush
Beet: Gourmet Blend
Carrots: Danvers
Cucumber: Paris (for making tiny cornichon pickles), Marketmore
Kale: Dinosaur
Leeks: American Flag
Lettuce: Gourmet Baby Greens
Mustard Greens: Ruby Streaks (We were seduced by the beauty of this plant)
Italian Parsley
Peas: Alaska
Pepper: California Wonder
Poppy: California, Hungarian Blue Breadseed
Radish: French Breakfast
Tomatoes: Brandywine Red, Green Sausage, Sun Gold
Sunflowers: Sunzilla (to hide the World's Ugliest Fence)
Swiss Chard: Five Color Silverbeet
Zucchini: Black Beauty

Plus some other stuff that we mail ordered, like hops for making beer, and various California wildflowers.

Mostly, the seeds are heirloom varieties, because I'm so delighted by seeds that have been saved and grown for generations.

We're supposed to be having an arborist come out to remove a dying mulberry tree that shaded our entire back yard. But with two solid weeks of rain, his schedule is a big mess. I can't prepare my second vegetable bed until that tree is gone.

There's something important to me, about planting a garden. It's like an investment on the future, even if I won't be there to participate in that future.

I've put in a garden in every place that I've lived (any many where I've worked) where there was even a scrap of dirt. I usually planted tough perennials that would survive, long after I was gone. I can only imagine how big the trees that I planted in Charles Village are by now.


Gina said...

Honey, it's HUGE! I used to think of you every time I walked past it on my way to Eddie's. Now it's a drive by glance, but I swear it's grown another foot in the past year. GIANT full grown mature happy tree (like us, right?!)

Anonymous said...

I laugh when I look at your lengthy list of hopeful plants! I did the same thing, and most of it became uncontrolled with all the house stuff to do. Hence I started my own "Feral Gardening" practice.

"The square foot garden" is a very good book, the best even, along with any reliable book on companion gardening. Continue to compost like a mo-fo. It pays off. I even throw nail clippings in there. Ancient egyptians believed it appeased evil spirits. Who knew?

I anticipated a huge sprawling garden, and it's a lot of work and it would never be as big as I want it anyway. So plant UP as much as possible your first year. Got a messy fence? Plant kentucky wonder green beans and eat them all summer and fall! Tomatoes LOVE fresh dirt, so remember to plant a lot of them. Also, plant basil, cause we had a bush of it about 5 feet tall (6 plants as well) and suffice to say we are still eating magnificant frozen pesto sauce we made 3 years ago. So we didnt have to grow THAT anymore!

If you still have slug problems, have Robb build you the worlds smallest bird houses, and all the wrens you get will be very aggressive about eating all your bad bugs and slugs.

Are you going to have your wood hauled off or are you keeping it to burn in your fireplace? I use the branches to weave "temporary fences" around the different garden plots, but the fences were stronger than I thought and they stood for years and looked rustic and awesome. Willow branches woven into fencing tends to grow into actual trees, so avoid them as fencing if you caOur barn is our "crap room" but since the roof blew off, its now our "Wet crap room". UGH...

If your neighbors garden, and grow a particular thing every year, you can NOT grow that, cause chances are you can grow something different and trade produce with them.

I went thru the basement and have about 300 glass jars to can stuff with this fall. It will save $ on running the freezer next year. I gotta get a pressure cooker. Canning tomatoes by hand just gets me wet and scorched.


Anonymous said...

I just remembered- garlic grown (in permanant patches)under fruit/apple/peach trees repels all sorts of borers- and lettuce grows really well under fruit trees as well since the leaves shade the lettuce and prevents it from being stressed by the sun.

I also grow Yarrow in many places, beacuse it is a foolproof ant and bug repellant. I put the plant fresh or dried around places we get ants in the house.

I dont know if you can get Yarrow in California.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the gift bag of seeds, that was us, Grumpy Grinch. We always have a vegetable garden and knew you planned one too. Grumpy had such fun picking out the variety of seeds to help inspire you to plant, plant, plant.

Love the way you embrace your landscape.

Anonymous said...

How many square feet do you have in that back yard or are you planning to plant the front yard as well? What ambition. You do need to allow for room to walk between rows. I suggest that you use a trellis in front of the ugly fence and plant pole beans 'Fortex' is good choice. I have grown them for 10 years now. I am now fighting off voles that have infested my under ground crops they only leave my garlic alone. Good luck you two a new ground to challenge is such fun!
Love, Dad

monalisa13 said...


I have a delicious French recipe for you when the time comes: Creamy Radish Leaf Soup -- no radishes in it (though they suggest you serve the radishes while preparing the soup with salt and butter). It uses chicken broth, but I would imagine it will be equally good with vegetable broth. I'm still doing my container gardening on my deck, but I am doing a CSA this year again, so I'll get some good produce there. Good luck with your garden!

Kristen said...

in the UK we call arugula "rocket." Which is awesome. I don't like it any better (too bitter for my wimpy palate) but i still like seeing it while shopping just to have an excuse to ask Ben if we need some ROCK-IT! He gets the joke but doesn't really find it funny.


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