Bring on the Veggies
By Paul James
I overdid it prepping the vegetable garden last weekend, to the point where I could barely get out of bed Monday morning. It’s not that I’m too old to garden, mind you. It’s just that I don’t seem to know when to quit. But after looking at the garden this morning, I can proudly say the aches and pains were worth it. And this weekend I’m going to plant.
This will be my 41st consecutive vegetable garden, although when you consider that I plant spring, summer, and fall, I suppose you could call it my 123rd garden! Sure, I love ornamental gardening as well, but the joy of eating what I grow – rather than just staring at it — is especially gratifying.
And just what will I be planting? Why potatoes, of course, because they’re easy to grow and are, to me anyway, a food group unto themselves (as is butter, by the way). Nearby I’ll stick forty or fifty leek sets in the ground, because potatoes and leeks (plus butter, cream, and chicken stock) combine to form my favorite cold soup from France — vichyssoise! I’ll also plant onions – both from bulbs and from sets – although I usually harvest them as scallions rather than waiting on the bulbs to form. Sugar snaps and snow peas are a must, as are carrots and radishes. I’ll likely sow seeds of arugula and other greens – spinach, lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, mustard, etc. – all of which I’ll plant successively for the next three weeks or more. That way I can stagger the harvest over a period of weeks rather than be inundated all at once with more than my wife and I can eat.
Depending on the forecast for next week, I plan on getting transplants of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower in the ground, knowing that I might need to cover them with blankets if temps drop into the mid-20s. Or I’ll just wait another week or so.
Other goodies you can plant this time of year include asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries, all of which are perennial, so make sure you prepare your planting beds well, perhaps adding a few bags of soil amendment or compost to the beds.
And let’s not forget culinary herbs such as oregano, sage, and thyme, all of which are hardy enough to go in the ground or in containers now. Hold off on the more tender herbs such as cilantro and dill until it warms up a bit more. And realize that parsley, if exposed to temps below freezing, may bolt and flower prematurely. That’s why I always plant parsley in containers, because I can put the pots in the garage if temps nosedive.
I just glanced at the forecast and it looks like there’s a good chance of rain on Sunday, which means I’ll be planting Friday and Saturday. And yes, I’ll try not to overdo it. But even if I do, I’ll have a chance to rest on Sunday, sitting on my back porch with a fire going, sipping a beverage, and witnessing one of the finest moments a gardener can experience, namely watching the rain soak all my newly planted seeds and plants.
Happy gardening, ya’ll.
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