Ecology/Agriculture/Education

9 Garden Results That Taught Me a Lesson in Winter

                                                                                                                          Every winter I wistfully dream of my Spring Garden:

Every winter, my boredom with the dreary weather and its indoor regimen force me into the most evil tasks. While the wind howls and the last of fall gets blown away, cabinets get scrubbed, linens get rearranged, and loads of extra wash and dry create snuggle spots for the cats. The snow begins its steady drifts and the driveway is a sheet of ice. Going out is out of the question. My spirits begin to lift as the household slowly gets put into order and I remember the gardening catalogs I didn’t have time for during the rush of harvest. My excitement over the color photos begins to hit high notes as the winter wears on. I don’t mind being shut-in. I have something that occupies my heart and mind to the fullest.

Books, magazines and the Sunday Garden section are all over the place.

Previous logs, journals, notes, and calendars get pulled from drawers, closets and computers. Mind in a whirl, I can’t think straight. What to plant this spring? I remember the problems, but try and focus on that gorgeous melon and delicious eggplant Parmesan the family raved over. Where to start? I dive for John Jeavons’ “Plant More Vegetables”, and congratulate myself for having planted a cover crop before the rain and winds hit.

The nitrogen is getting built into the soil as we speak.

Like every year, I had to rein myself in from ordering up countless packages of seed and even more color catalogs. I decided to build a “What to Do and What Not to Do” list. First, I meditated deeply on what has happened in the past:

  1.  I planted vegetables I didn’t like to eat. They were recommended, and organic, or I was told (about the peppers) “they were not hot at all”. Baloney. I fed the compost.
  2. No idea cauliflower grew that big and took over that much space for one edible head.  I guess we could have eaten lots more leaves, but they were full of insect holes. Then there was that  night-flying moth whose larva turned into tiny green worms with voracious appetites. There really wasn’t much left of the leaves anyway.
  1. Surely tomatoes could not grow that much into each other with 6’ wire supports. They did. It was a jungle in there. I squirmed and fought my my through to get those last little tomatoes and didn’t know I could wear that scent so long.
  2. People do not want any more lemon cucumbers. They grow so prolifically and are so full of seeds, most varieties, I could not say “enough!” more emphatically.
  1. Same with zucchini. One plant would have been more than enough, but no. I had to plant several varieties and the neighborhood was drowning in crocknecks.
  2. Does your family really go for all those greens? All those nights with dinner?. Never have I seen more wrinkled noses over the mustard/spinach/chard saute´ I slaved over, buttered-up, mixed with quinoa, laced with garlic and lemon, and presented with such aplomb! No dice. No takers.
  3. I don’t like eggplant. But it’s not all about me. Husband adores it. Since the big ones always “mushed out” on me, I planted the Japanese variety. Nothing appeared until so late in the season, I was ready to feed the compost again when they spit out so many eggplants even my husband called a halt. All from one plant.    But no, I had planted three (just in case). In case of what, starvation?
  1. “It doesn’t grow here” I was told by more than one expert. No, I knew better. Then I planted peas and carrots at the wrong time, and lost most of the cucumber and squash to mildew to over- watering and not enough sun. Do you know how long it takes for a spaghetti squash to ripen? By then, the whole plant looks dead. They need a huge fence to crawl on, take over, and only give you one or two. It’s another thing I don’t like, anyway.
  1. Another big mistake was trying to plant seeds indoors. A magazine idea fed my brainstorm to fill a plastic shoe bag with organic dirt and wait for seedlings and transplants for spring. Surely that big garage window was plenty of light and it never got colder than 60°F. Plants? Not in this lifetime. Organic transplants are a lot less of a mess than that shoe bag, believe me.

Meanwhile, the cover crop looks great, come heck or high water.

 

 

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