It’s time to put action to good intentions and get out in the garden. NOW is when to add soil amendments and turn cover crops (just in case you were organized last fall…) in the areas you want to plant early spring crops. Steve Solomon’s Vegetable Gardening West of the Cascades has become a valuable tool for me since Bob and I recently erected a small greenhouse from a kit, and our new year’s resolution is to feed ourselves produce year round from the garden. I have taken as a personal challenge Steve’s comment (I’m on a first name basis with him in my head) that he judges a good vegetable gardener by whether there is something green in the garden ALL year, not just in the summertime.
Since I’ll never be considered a “real farmer” by others who have their own definition (kind of like the definition of a “real man”) that will likely never include me, I can at least achieve a measure of self worth by eating from my own garden most if not all year. I further resolve to get acquainted with some of the root vegetables I have barely heard of and certainly never cooked, like kohlrabi, so that next winter we will have options beyond hardy greens, potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts and what we have frozen, dried, stored and canned from the summer harvest.
If you haven’t planted your peas yet, get off the couch and get those babies in the ground. Yes, it’s still iffy weather, but the peas won’t mind. The hardest part for me is making myself erect whatever trellis will hold them up when they start to grow. Ask me how I know it is easier to put it up before you plant than after they are twining all over each other in an effort to grasp onto something. This year’s trellis consists of those metal stakes from Lumbermen’s with a reusable, 5 foot tall 4” netting purchased from Johnny’s seed catalogue. A first for me this year: I planted two rows of peas, one row of a short season snap pea and one of a long season shelling pea, so that we will enjoy eating peas over a longer period of time. We once went to friends’ for dinner, where the appetizer consisted of walking down the row of peas, eating them straight off the vine. YUM!
This year I have lots of salad greens and stir fry greens started in the greenhouse and in cold frames. Last year we didn’t have those season extenders and I planted all of the above in the ground and crossed my fingers before leaving for two weeks in early March. Sure enough, everything came up just fine. The advantage I hope to have this year is to be eating them sooner, since they will have had a warmer, faster start. We do have some hardy little lettuces that struggled through the winter under remay, having been hastily thrown in the ground sometime last November and completely neglected since then. They have started to get serious about growing, and I’m anxious to try some, to see if they are worth eating, after a winter that tested their Darwinian fitness. Speaking of survival of the fittest, there are a few spicy greens hanging around the garden and outside the compost bin, which sprouted from seeds that made it through the compost bin.
Last year’s potatoes wintered over just fine in the 4’ x 12’ raised bed where they were grown last summer, covered with about six inches of dirt and a bale’s worth of loose straw. Every time we wanted potatoes for dinner, I would go out and dig some up. It was a lazy way to store them, and I only groused a tiny bit when I had to go out in icky weather to dig them from under their sometimes frozen blanket of straw. I just dug the remaining twenty or so pounds up and stored them in a box with dry dirt and sawdust. Some of the uglier ones are lying in flats in the greenhouse, sprouting from their eyes and getting ready to become this year’s potato crop, planted in a new location.
The old potato bed has been turned, straw and all, amended with some cottonseed meal, alfalfa pellets, phosphate, lime and kelp (per Steve’s directions) and now sports a hinged cold frame made by Bob. It is now home to baby broccoli and early cabbage starts that I started in February in the greenhouse. We don’t have any good places in the house to start seeds, and I feel like a kid with a new toy out in that greenhouse!