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Pull Up a Chair: Ready or Not, Spring Is Coming

Life gets in the way sometimes, even for gardeners, so here I am with no seeds started (oh, the horror!), and scrambling around at the last minute (didn’t follow my own advice last fall, but what the heck) trying to figure out what we’re going to do. We’re still snow-covered here, but unless we get some major snow (sorry people in New England who are still digging out from the last snow; in Upstate NY, we didn’t get very much and have since had warm weather and some rain), not for long.

And without snow cover, we know what is going to happen: the soil is going to warm up. What to do…oh, what to do?

OK – if I want to speed things along, I can scrape off the snow off one of the beds and put to work our ‘old window over some lumber’ trick, which warms up the soil PDQ. And I can either order or go through our local seed racks (at this point, the seeds will still be pretty good) for what I can use right away and get started.

So, what can I use ‘right away’ (or what passes for that here)? Well, if I can get the soil temperatures up to 50+ degrees F, I can plant:

  • Anything from the CABBAGE family: broccoli, kale, cabbage, Chinese cabbages and mustards, cauliflower, kohlrabi.
  • Anything from the BEET family: beets, Swiss and other chards
  • Various sorts of lettuces and other greens
  • Spinach

And frankly, I have had just as good (if not better, actually) experience just putting the seeds into the ground rather than starting them and setting out the plants.

This year, for the first time, I am doing the research in terms of ‘who owns/controls/has agreements with who’ in terms of seed suppliers. There is part of me that is considering very seriously going with Seed Savers Exchange or another heritage seed group, just to make sure that the sticky GM fingers of Monsanto, Bayer, Dow et al. are not on there. I might even save seeds at the end of the summer (which is actually not all that hard to do; I’ll be happy to go over that if anyone is interested). Here’s an amazing factoid about ‘germ plasm ownership’: The number 5 organization in terms of who owns/controls seed germ plasm in…the…world… is……. Land o’ Lakes. The butter people. I kid you not. Look it up.

I’m also thinking seriously about trying, for the first time, to grow parsnips, strictly from having a plate with a whack-load of parsnip/apple puree on it. Yummy. Anyone with experience growing parsnips? I figure that since we’ve had some success with carrots, I will be able to grow parsnips (long pointy veggies under the ground? All the same? Or am I wrong?). We’re also going strictly production tomatoes this year: grow what we use, which is plum tomatoes. I might sacrifice some space to one slicing tomato (so that the DH will be able to make his beloved ‘mayo/black pepper/sliced tomatoes on horrible commercial white bread’ sandwiches), plus one cherry tomato, but other than that, I’ve decided not to bother. If I can find a plum tomato that comes from Eastern Europe or Russia, I’m sold.

The big work this spring will be on a bed we started last year with compost from the county landfill, which was compost in the same way that some Democrats in the House are Democrats. I don’t think I’ve seen as high a ‘wood chip to actual organic material’ ratio in anything other than saw dust in a long time. So that bed was as close to a dead loss as you can get. We’ll dump all the real compost out of the bins into there in the spring. I might even do nothing with that area but grow buckwheat 3 or 4 times (if nothing else, it will feed the bees really well) in the summer to put some more stuff into it. Anyone else have any ideas for cover crops that would do improvement there?

So, where is everyone else in their gardening? Any of you folks in southwest or southeast started? Or is it too dry? I’m not feeling all that good up here about that either – we’re having another dry winter like last winter, which does not predict good things.

You know the drill – fill up the coffee cups, pull the scones out of the oven and let’s talk.

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Snarky housewife from Upstate New York. Into gardening, fiber arts, smallholder farming.