I got most of the dirt out of my fingernails (yes, I own gloves, but don’t always use them), but the cracks in my hands didn’t come completely clean. Oh, life is good! (and five cubic yards of compost and my raised-bed corners coming tomorrow, and a three day weekend to boot: woo hoo!)
I started turning the garden over in earnest today. I can’t believe I thought for years that I could get away with just scratching in some composted manure from the plastic bags at Home Depot and let the roots do the rest! Now, I double dig (two shovel depths, straight down, everywhere) and add leaves and compost every year. (The kids got a pile of clay to make things out of. I certainly have enough clay to play with, if I dig down far enough.)
I just finished ordering my seeds, and I have come to two conclusions:
1. There are just too many options out there. I received more than a dozen catalogs, but only ordered from two. And really, do we need a hundred slicing tomatoes to choose from? I really think a few dozen would be sufficient. Of course, one of the catalogs I ordered from has nearly a page and a half of their catalog dedicated to various okras (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange- good for those of you who, like me, have long, hot, humid summers that stress many plants). And I’ll be planting at least ten varieties of lettuce again (most of it not all-green, and NO iceberg! (I think they called it that because iceberg tastes like water.)) I have some leftover Florellenschluss (Flashy Troutback), and I ordered Yugoslavian Red and Revolution, but Drunken Woman was sold out… ok, maybe a few options are good.
2. The more I pay attention to my food and seeds, the more ticked off I get. In this particular case, the problem is F1 hybrids. Basically, these are first generation plant crosses. Much better than the GMO seeds (Genetically Modified, sometimes with genes that didn’t even come from plants in the first place, much less that species), but still problematic. Why? Because if you save seed from an F1, most of it will not have the characteristics that you chose it for. Essentially, selling F1 hybrids forces you to buy new seeds every year. The old heirlooms and other longer-than-one-measly-year crosses have had most of the variations bred out of them. As I’m trying to save more seeds and avoid paying so much for seeds each year, this is becoming more important to me.
So, what’s going to be growing this year? Some highlights:
Painted Mountain corn: eat it fresh, dry it and grind it (mmm… grits!), parch it (dry pan roasted). It looks like the beautiful Indian Corn sold for decorations in late fall, but much more edible. Now, if I can only protect it from the muskrats…
Lettuce! Watching a guest about to douse his salad in Caesar dressing, I warned, “Look out; my lettuce actually has taste!” Looking dubious (but learning he’d better listen, since he also hadn’t believed me when I walked across the deck with a basket and scissors saying, “I’m going to go get dinner,” returning with mounds of leaf lettuce), he tried a bite, then agreed that this lettuce didn’t need so much dressing to make it palatable. Did you know that something like a third of lettuce (pre-truck farm days) in the US used to be reds?
Swiss Chard: I’m growing enough to freeze this year. We had jambalaya tonight (a great, huge, “I’m busy digging in the garden and want leftovers for tomorrow night so I don’t have to cook” kind of dinner), and I really, really missed the chard and wished I’d put some up before the freeze killed the plants (in milder winters, they’ve gone all winter without dying back… back when I had no idea what to do with them and mostly ignored them).
Potatoes: I was going to order (at around $12 for a two pound bag) some, but decided I’d try my luck with the store varieties. Since many stores now carry blue potatoes and the occasional fingerlings, as well as the wonderful Yukon Golds and reds, why pay $6 a pound plus extra shipping? Why grow potatoes, you’re asking? Southern Exposure Seed Exchange had a large warning on their potato page last year: if you eat fresh-dug potatoes, you will never want to go back to those things from the store! They are not exaggerating: the fresh-dug ones are sweeter, creamier, cook faster, and their skins haven’t hardened up yet.
Great. Now it’s after midnight and my mouth is watering.