Saturday, May 18, 2013

Potential (In the Category of Mean What You Say.) [#52Weeks]

The last frost date, which in these parts coincides with my husband’s birthday, has passed, but the cool wet weather persists. I had every intention, every desire to plant the garden today. I planned to document the steps along the way and create a blog post about the potential it holds.

It started raining as I approached the checkout line at the Crow’s Nest Nursery laden with two flats of seedlings. It continues to rain. 

Gardening pleases me on multiple levels. There’s hope in a garden, the potential for nourishment and flavor, the reward that comes with having shown faith in the seed – in the seedling. I inherited my green thumb from my mother who inherited hers from her father, my Daddy Mac. I was pretty good at keeping plants alive, mainly houseplants, before I took Indoor Plants as an elective one spring my third year in college. I followed that up during first summer session with Plant Biology (thus fulfilling my science requirement for a Bachelor of Arts degree), and since then, for the most part, plants only die in my house because they annoyed me for one reason or another, and I let them die. This rarely happens, although I have two large bird of paradise plants that are approaching that status. For the most part, if I want the houseplant to live, it thrives.
Legacy Peppermint from My Daddy Mac's Garden That Grows In Mine

Gardening outdoors presents an altogether different set of challenges compared to growing

I have a long and successful track record growing kitchen herbs outdoors. Kitchen herbs, so-called aromatics, are delicious in every manner of sauce, salad and stuffing, and bugs and vermin hate them. To the un-informed eye, the herb garden looks like a mass of weeds. But the flavor that I snip from that patch! The potential to transform a dish from sustenance to magic – fresh pesto or chimichurri – the simple exquisiteness of warm egg noodles tossed in butter and the greenest dill.

Talk about potential. In time and treated correctly, this…
…will become this…
As a devotee of vine-ripened homegrown tomatoes, I have spent many years learning to grow these. I first planted them in large flowerpots on my back deck. The results were adequate but insufficient for my appetite. So two years ago, I sacrificed a sunny portion of my backyard to create an in-ground garden plot. It isn’t large.  I can plant eight tomato plants, four pepper plants and a row of sugar snap peas. I line the long sides with marigolds – six per side. They're pretty, but better, the smell of them repels insects that are willing to tear into my tomatoes sooner than I am. (And I am not patient – I make a really tasty fried green tomato.)
Don't let the encroaching weeds fool you. This will become a fertile, organic garden plot with only a few turns of the shovel.
I wished, today, to plant this year’s tomatoes. This season, I’ve narrowed my focus to just three varieties: Cherokee Purples, a delicious burgundy colored heirloom, a new one called “Better Bush” and an Italian style tomato. To mix things up, I’ll plant a variety called “San Marzano” instead of the usual “Romas.” When I combine the ripened tomatoes with the oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme from my herb garden, the sauce will be amazing. If I really want to go there, I’ll make the pasta from scratch too.

I have only three pints of last year’s tomatoes left in the freezer. They have to last until this year’s tomatoes come to fruition. I’ve got plans for an early start though. The “Better Bush” already has fruit.

I have serrano peppers to put in and Thai chilis. In August, the latter will play nicely with the fresh shock of lemongrass in all manner of spicy Asian cuisine. I also want to plant twice as many sugar snap peas this year. They get good to me as the pea pod starts to lengthen on the vine. Some days, I stand at the garden’s edge, where the peas grow, and just eat them, sun warm and sweet.

My stash of chilis also grows thin. The sooner I can get my little plants in the ground to start producing new ones, the better. I’ve bought plants, but I also started some seeds. The cool weather has them stunted, but I have no doubt of the potential for this…
Thai Chili Seedling That I Started From Seed

…to produce these…

Part of my chili stash from the freezer. Tossed directly into any dish, they kick ass.
I’m ready to turn the soil over, count earthworms, work in new nutrients, plant seedlings, snake the soaker hose, I’m eager to watch as the garden repeats the timeless life-renewing cycle of seed, flower, fruit. I’ll defend against invaders, foreign and domestic and, if all goes well, I'll appreciate the potential fulfilled -- the harvest.

I’m planting flowers, too, which my Daddy Mac grew in profusion for my Grandmother.  A plaque used to hang in Daddy Mac’s garage, over the door that lead out back to the garden: “Flowers are God’s way of smiling.”

I’ll plant them tomorrow. Hopefully.


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