Sometimes, no matter how mountainous the piles, no matter how voluminous the dust bunnies, no matter how numerous the emails, when a person opens the door to personally receive the mail from the mailman and feels not a blast of icy air but gentle warmth and gets a whiff of not brisk or crisp, but soft and dirt, they need to walk awaaay from the computer and go outside to play in the garden.
Then things like peas, swiss chard, spinach, mesclun, arugula and whatever else one grabs from the seed box will, like magic, begin to appear from the dark loam of the earth and become a meal or ten for a family or a boat.
I do believe that we will have fresh greens and vegetables even for our first sail this year. In part this has to do with planning (and giving in to the impulse to get out in the garden all the while ignoring the piles that will still be there when I come back inside). In part this is due to excellent husbands who help build cold frames. Lastly, we must give a nod to Mother Nature who seems to not have any more snow in our future this spring. I may have spoken too soon and you can blame me if snow arrives, but I with cautious optimism, think we just might be done.
Here, you can see four different season extenders. In the foreground are milk jugs with the bottoms removed and then plunked in the ground over pea seeds. In the background, from left to right is the angled cold frame, a hooped bed which will receive plastic over the hoops and an a-frame cold frame. All work equally well.
Counting the days until my first garden greens of the season
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