Well, it’s that time of year again – the dead of winter doldrums have hit, so the seed companies take advantage by sending out their brightly-colored little catalogs of garden porn. Naked seeds, laying suggestively on colorful cloths, dirty carrots, blushing tomatoes…the pictures on those shiny pages are enough to make any gardener shiver. And covet. And spend far more money than was strictly necessary, on things that there isn’t necessarily enough space for in the garden…yet…
I always spend hours pouring over these catalogs, wanting. Wanting to try all the different varieties, wanting to see how they grow, how they taste, what they really look like in my garden. I have discovered that most of these things aren’t really suitable for neglectful gardeners in zone 2 dryland, where even hardy tomatoes and peppers and melons need a lot of watering and covering and coddling. It does not seem to stop me, however.
This year, I am trying a new tactic to combat over-spending on seeds. I wrote out a list of every vegetable we actually eat, then allowed myself to order a couple or three varieties of each of those. I’m getting two kinds of beet, for instance (Cylindra, and some golden variety, though I have not yet decided which one). I’ll get three types of dry bean, maybe four (Jacob’s Cattle, Red Kidney, Black Turtle, and maybe a Maine Yellow Eye), and two types of wax bean. We already know which varieties of peas, carrots, wax beans, turnips, and onions we like, so those are easy. I am debating about whether to try hybrids for cucumber, summer squash, and broccoli; we have not had as good of luck with these as I would have liked. I am totally stuck when it comes to squash, though; even if I allow myself two types of pumpkin and three other winter squash varieties, I can’t narrow it down to that. I love squash so much, and it’s a go-to storage veggie for us, so I might just get one of everything!
For the things we have never tried (kohlrabi), that are marginal (artichokes), and ones we’ve never had any luck with (melons), I am setting a ‘fun budget’. This is a budget of money, but also a budget of garden space. While we have more room than we will ever need for gardens, there is only so much space Hubby can actually manage to keep weeded, watered, and picked, so we’re in heavy negotiations over what is reasonable, and what is completely crazy. Anything we agree on will still probably be overly ambitious, as we’re both total optimists about the garden, but maybe we can pare back a bit from the 8,000-plus square foot (literally!) monster that we began with. Of course, I’m still looking at two types of artichoke, several melons, a couple of novelty gourds, and so forth; ‘restraint’ is kind of relative…
We are also looking at trying some new tactics with the gardens. The main bed is currently located a long ways from the house, past two hedges, and through a large patch of grass that will hopefully be fenced off and turned into goat field sometime soon. It is not very accessible, and it’s out of sight, which means we forget to weed and water as often as we should. We want to move the garden to a more obvious and accessible location, though we don’t have any place close to the house that is big enough. What we hope to do is plow up as many as four new beds, in various places between the house and the barn, and near the barn, where we are more likely to weed/water/pick, because we will be seeing them more frequently. As well, this would resolve the issue of how to juggle garden duties with caring for Baby M; the new locations would be near shady protected spots where a baby could be parked in a play pen, rather than being out in a hot, exposed, windy open field. We will have to wait for the snow to melt in order to measure up the patches, but we think we’ve found enough places to make this work.
So back to the picture-circling for me…I’m sure in two months I’ll be complaining about where to put all my seed starts, but the looking and wishing and choosing sure is fun!
Read Full Post »