Sunday, 11 January 2015

Planning the vegetable garden already

As the wind howls down from the north and the ice pellets sting the window, the first seed and bulb catalogue arrives in the mail, and I cheer at the thought that only about four months remain until I can get back into my garden. (Hey, I'll cling to any hope at this point.)

It was a Vesey's catalogue, and frankly I have little use for flowers other than as pollinator-enticers, but it sent me to the computer to prowl Baker Creek's and Salt Spring Seeds' websites. I already know what I'm planting this year. Every year I tell myself that this is the year to hold off and not plant anything because I really do need to put some effort and money first into setting up a proper garden. I need permanent paths, a drip irrigation system, maybe some raised beds. By the time the ground dries out enough to do those things, we'll have missed the planting season, and if I plan to do any travelling this summer it would be best not to grow a garden this year...

And even while I'm telling myself these reasonable things, I'm scribbling down my planting plans and seed wishlist for spring. I know I will end up doing what I've always done for the past thirteen years---I'll dig up the whole plot of ground, toss down a few random used bricks to use as stepping stones instead of paths, and cram every square inch of earth with plants. I invariably end up tiptoeing through jungle-like growth, teetering on a two-inch standing space and cursing myself for not relinquishing a few more inches of precious space to accommodate a decent path.

But putting down permanent paths means less room for vegetables, and what would I give up? The Swedish red peas last year were amazing, voluminous and pretty and nutty-tasting, and they produced right into October, which is astounding in this climate. So I definitely have to have those again. Never will I go back to ordinary green garden peas. Then there's the zucchini -- gotta have that staple crop -- and the yummy white cucumbers (though this year I think I'll try the Crystal Apple variety). I want to try orange beets instead of the usual Crapaudine or Bull's Blood. The salad stuff is a must, and the radishes and onions always self-seed every year so they're coming whether I want them or not. The garlic is already in and slumbering beneath a six-inch layer of leaves. Then there's all the permanent features like asparagus, rhubarb, and the blueberries and strawberries. I want to get some raspberries and blackberries started. I want to try the Cape gooseberries again (last year they produced lovely fruit that unfortunately froze before it could ripen, but this year I could think to throw some covers over them). And then of course the usual suspects -- green beans and dry cooking beans and various herbs, which fill every available corner of the garden as a sort of default filler.

I have decided against tomatoes and peppers this year, and probably won't do potatoes or sweet potatoes either. For the volume I require, it's cheaper and easier to buy them. I mean, when you're bottling four or five bushels of tomatoes at once, a handful from the garden is just a tease. You can enjoy the music, after all, without having to be the whole orchestra.

I detest washing carrots, so I might give those a miss for this year, even though I love their sweet flavour. I likely won't try cauliflower, broccoli, winter squash, melons, or pumpkins again. I have had limited success with these in our short growing season other than the Collective Farm Woman melons, and those just simply take up too much space. And the family is starting to burn out on all the hubbard squash still in my freezer from last year.

So there's the line-up. In past years I've tried growing everything from oats to chick peas, and I enjoy trying new things each year. It's hard having to pick and choose because of space constraints. I could go crazy and grow more food all over the yard, but the dogs do need a place to run, and my long-suffering husband likes sitting in the shade without feeling as if he's been thrown into the middle of a Kansas corn field. So I will restrain myself and stick to the designated allotment. This year I have sons to help me, so I'm looking forward to a great growing year.

Now all I gotta do is wait for all this snow to disappear...

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