Be prepared to shift your expectations. Anything can happen in March: single digits, a ton of snow, wind. Name it, and be ready. I won’t turn the heat on in the greenhouse until the first week in April. In the meantime, all the starts are under lights in the guest room. Good thing there aren’t any guests.
With that in mind I moved my tomatoes, artichokes, lettuce and Brussels sprouts to larger pots this morning. They just may need to spend more time in these confines than anticipated, and I do so want them to be comfortable. This is yet another good reason to buy your starts from any one of the wonderful nurseries we are graced with. These folks know what they are doing and, at this very moment, are getting plants ready for you to just buy and put into the ground when the time is upon us.
But, for those of us who just can’t resist starting our own, the gauntlet has been thrown. The challenge will be met. And we will be ever so happy every single moment of starting our gardens in February and March. Personally I love every single moment of this process.
If you have never tried leeks from seed, get going, they are just wonderful. They love Homer just as much as garlic and artichokes do. Oh, and celery. It is almost shocking how well celery does here. But it needs a head start so get some seed started now.
I learned a hard lesson last season, (actually, many hard lessons but I shan’t digress) I need to diversify. I have been a faithful adherent of Packman broccoli for years and then I was wooed by Arcadia. The first season I tried just four Arcadia and they were just so magnificent. Last year I planted them exclusively. They were a bust. Goodness. So this year I have some of each plus Purple Peacock broccoli. Why not? I have never heard of it. But it just may be a winner. A welcome addition to a variation on a theme. No more mono cropping for me. Same with Brussels sprouts. Two different kinds this season.
By the way, we have been eating Brussels sprouts out of the garden all winter. We just go get what we need for a meal. That has been interesting for me. I loathe leaving anything in the garden. I need it be all neat, tidy, ready to go in anticipation of spring. The sight of those stalks out there just rocks my sense of order. But I have persevered and been rewarded. Of course, this has been an exceptional winter. No winter to speak of really and that has helped things like leaving Brussels sprouts in the garden to fend for themselves.
I know there are those who wouldn’t even think of harvesting Brussels sprouts or even carrots or other root crops. They have taken measures to keep these crops in the ground. Not me. I want them at the ready. I do not want to go out in the dark and dig around for dinner. There, I said it. To each his own. It’s like weeding: some of us do and some of us don’t.
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I get concerned that there are too many of you out there who are overthinking gardening.
For example: A friend who purports to be a faithful reader of this column just revealed to me that he is now pollinating his tomatoes with his electric toothbrush. He was so proud of himself. He found a shortcut from using a paintbrush and going bloom to bloom. I could have throttled him. NO and NO. All we need do, once there are blossoms, is shake the plant. That’s it, just shake. It takes a nano second. And the whole plant is pollinated. Every single bloom. You will get tomatoes galore. You will be giving them away. Please people, just SHAKE the plant. I think I have mentioned this at least a thousand times in the last 21 years.
Here’s another one: An eager gardener asked me about lunar planting. She wanted a definitive answer on the success or failure of this method. She wanted me to steer her to a scientific study on the credibility of this method. What?? She should have asked about biodynamic gardening while she was at it. It is all wonderful if it makes your heart sing. If these methods grow gorgeous food for you, by all means use them. But they are ages old. They are intuitive like all gardening is. When is the best time to plant out your seedlings? After the last full moon in May because ... I don’t know, just because. Because that’s what I always do and it gives me reassurance that I am doing my best for these tender seedlings that I started in the guest room in February and March against all odds.
People have been gardening for eons, without books (tomes have been written on compost, why?), without studies. Just garden. Just do it. You will make a harvest. It might be too many peas or enough lettuce for a village but, hey, you are gardening. You will get the hang of it probably sooner rather than later.
Note: Get yourself on the Sustainable Homer and Homer Garden Club e-newsletters. They are packed with information.
Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.