I couldn’t take it one more day. The seed catalogs have begun to saunter in and I’ve resisted looking at one, but instead have filed them in the cabinet next to my desk. It’s February you see. If I look at seeds and green and growing, I will start to yearn – for seeds and green and growing. Like this…
And I will no longer love the snow, which is gorgeous, clean, white and covering the entire garden. Like this…
Until today I succeeded. Until I didn’t, and then I just had to plant some seeds, just a few. Because it is so cold, I didn’t feel up to braving the garden shed for containers and instead got ingenious with the newspaper. These little window boxes fit perfectly on my window sill and contain spinach, bibb lettuce and radishes.
It didn’t take but a few seconds before I was on a roll and thinking creatively about how to use the misplaced mini-greenhouse out in the back garden to squeeze some greens out in late April. Because it isn’t over a garden bed right now, but instead just in a path, I won’t plant directly into the ground, but will fill several shallow boxes with several inches of dirt and actually plant rows. The edges of the greenhouse will need some straw for insulation and I think a row cover or two will do the trick to protect the seedlings…
Yup, I’m on a roll and green is in my future!
The things that I use everyday that give me a moment’s pleasure are some of the best gifts I’ve ever received. When the kitchen faucet handle came off in Jon’s hand the other day and I turned to see what his sound of ‘uh, oh’ was all about, I almost jumped up and down. Being a frugal girl, there wasn’t any way that I would have pushed to replace the faucet, functional but tired, mostly working but not perfectly, until it really died. When it died, however, I felt free to get jump-up-and-down excited. The new faucet is a thing of beauty. I turn it off and on what must be at least 20 times per day on a day I’m only heating up leftovers. On the days I’m testing recipes? I have even more good, just a blink moments of, “dang, I love this faucet.”
The new tomato green house is another one of those gifts, given to me by my family for Mother’s Day. What clinches it for me as a top ten gift is that we all spent time in the garden working on it together. When I walk through the framed in door for the first time to plant my tomatoes, I’ll think of them, if only for a second. When I walk in again, the second time, same thing, if only for a second. I love them for giving me this memory everytime I’ll stoop to weed the tomatoes or string a vine up a line or pick a fully ripe and warm tomato from it’s stem.
For a gardener, new seeds are exciting and curiously so to the nongardener. Add heirloom varieties and a surprise that comes in the mail and you've got the perfect storm of interest for me.
Several weeks ago now, I signed up to receive Wintersown seeds from a group that sends them for free. Seeds get me jazzed anyway. And free. Heirloom varieties. Does it get any better? They arrived in the mail a week or so later with names like Chudo Rinka Tomatoes and one seed packet that was hand written and simply called Early Peas.
The idea behind wintersown seeds is that you can plant almost anything, have it germinate when it's ready an not worry about grow lights, dampening off or seedlings that need hardening off.
The process is a new one to me and if it is successful, the easiest and best way to start seeds that I've ever come across. In essence, you create mini-greenhouses with whatever containers you have on hand. I used the black, flats that seedlings usually come in, with the clear plastic tops for the cover. After moistening potting soil, I leveled four flats filled with rich, earthy smelling, inky richness and planted row upon row of seeds. Over 60 varieties in all. I then set them outside close to the house in the sun to keep them a little warmer and out of the strong wind our property is subject to.
My seeds have just begun to appear above the 2 inch layer of potting soil. They are brave little beings as the nights have still been primarily below freezing. And what seems to be happening is that the seeds that are cold hardy are germinating first – the Fordhook Swiss Chard, Forellenschluss Lettuce, Calabrese Broccoli, Rocket and Runway Arugula and Mache are all popping their tiny little heads up. The basil and tomatoes are still dormant, but I expect them to surface with in a week or two.
I'll then transplant the little babies underneath the covered rows in the garden and hopefully we'll have lettuce from the garden in April. You might not actually be able to see any little green guys growning in this soil, but trust me, they are there and I'm excited!
I'll let you know when we've had our first salad dressed with lemon and olive oil!
© 2009 Anne Mahle
All winter long, as even the sunny days are finger-bitingly frigid, I sit in my office and peek at the small apple orchard that grows alongside the house. I think I should go out and prune those trees, but I just can't make myself do it. Once it warms up and I am eager to be outside, the buds on the trees are so large that I'm concerned about decimating this years apple crop by assertive pruning – and then it doesn't get done. To elaborate, when you need to pull big branches out of the trees, a good yank gets the job done, but in the process may take tender buds with it. If you prune in the winter, the buds are more likely to stay with the tree.
My trees are at least 50 years old and probably closer to the age of the house, which is over 100 years old. When I first began pruning them, all of my work was simply about removing the dead wood. Over the years, I've been able to work on getting more air and light into the branches and remove any crossing limbs. Leaving, of course, any limbs that assisted little climbers (my daughters) in their journey into the trees. This follows the rule of thumb for most pruning. Remove dead wood first, crossing limbs next and lastly, make the aesthetic cuts that look pleasing to the eye. I don't often get to the last step because it's recommended that you remove 1/3 or less of the trees branches in any given year. My intermittent pruning assures that my 1/3 will be primarily in dead and crossing wood.
Not so this year! This weekend, my girls and I sat out on the rock in front of our house, first waving goodbye to Papa, who was headed out to deliver a boat from Miami north. It was so nice that we basked in the sun and took turns telling each other a story about a giant, a fairy, a little girl and two good dragons. Then a picnic lunch, still enjoying the warmth on our faces.
By lunchtime, I'd had enough time to ponder the apple trees and headed to the shed for my pruning tools. Maybe this year the apples will grow big and hearty now that they have space to expand.
The photo of the trees doesn't do them justice. If you think this looks like a tangled mess now, you should have seen it beforehand.
© 2009 Anne Mahle