Friday, February 11, 2005

Old Garden, New Garden

Anna playing in the pea patch

This time of year I am planning next summer's garden while still using the last of last year's garden.

Last year's garden grew lots of winter squash and Cinderella pumpkins. There are a few more in the basement but they really started to go bad during the last warm spell. The people in this house are a little tired of squash but the chickens still love them, seeds and all, and the fresh vegis help to give the egg yolks some good orange color. I also have a lot of garlic in the basement, in fact I wish I had less in the basement and more in the ground since back trouble prevented me from planting next year's crop last fall.

I planted a package of mixed basils last spring which ultimately yielded many jars of pesto in the freezer. This has been an important "default meal", something everyone will eat and anyone can make easily. We make pesto pasta and use pesto instead of tomato sauce for "green pizza." Without these "default meals" we tend to make a half-hearted attempt to find something for dinner, then give up and go down to the store for something quick, expensive, and really not that good (like frozen pizza or corn dogs).

It is almost time to start lettuce and basil and tomatos for containers. I ordered seeds last week from Pinetree Garden Seeds. They have a nice selection of seeds and their smallest packet price is around a dollar each which is great for my smaller garden. Their only drawback is that they take a little longer to process orders. I ordered the basil mix again, thinking I might start it earlier this year and have potted basils to sell. I ordered gold and red cherry tomatoes with the same idea, also Thai bird peppers. Minnesota Midget melons were a success last year, the first time in 15 years that I have been able to ripen melons. I will try Healthmaster carrots this year, as it is less work to store and clean big carrots than small ones. Cutting celery is something I wish I had grown and dried last summer for winter soups and casseroles. I dried leeks and kale last fall and have been using them in potato soup.

Starting lettuce now it may end up in the ground if the weather warms early, or I may harvest it right out of the flats. I have a two shelf system for my seed flats with regular fluorescent shop lights. I would love one of those high-output plant growing lights but they are coveted by dope growers and have been stolen from neighborhood greenhouses. There is no sense in owning such a crime magnet. I may spring for the ten bucks and replace one of my tubes with a real plant light this year.

I usually buy produce from Meier in the wintertime, but this year the shipped in greens are expensive and look tired. It may be the effect of last fall's hurricanes or I may be getting pickier. Each year I stretch the garden out longer in the fall and start it earlier in the spring, so it's only a matter of time before the year links up.

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