Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my!

I do have moments of fear when, like Dorothy and her mates walking the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, I wonder if my garden experiments are going to work out. Failure waits just around the corner: frost/freeze, no rain, blistering heat, cut worms. Then there are the possible failures of my own making like the homegrown saved potato chits or last season's saved seeds that may or may not germinate. I have an irrepressible urge to go out and dig up a chit to see if they are rotting or pushing down roots and am reminded there was a time, not so long ago, when that was the way of life.

All food was once chance, especially in The South, where almost to a person we were diggin' in the dirt poor growing our own food. My mother's parents were the last of that generation. I grew up visiting their farm where I helped my grandmother gather eggs and watched quietly while grownups milked cows. There was to be no getting the cows stirred up before milking. We talked quietly, if at all, and my grandfather leaned his head on the cow possibly an old childhood habit from being sleepy at milking time. I shucked corn for the corn crib under the tree just off the back porch, was warned that there might be rats in that crib and to stay out. We (a gaggle of cousins) had been caught playing King of the Mountain in the corn crib and that was my grandmother's way of keeping us out without lifting a finger or fussing. It worked. 

For my grandparents, seasoned pros, there was no failure. There was always milk, too many eggs, pork and beef in the freezer for the extended family and vegetables put up by Dola. Now that I'm doing it myself, I just don't get how they seemed so calm and fearless. More than once I have wanted to call them back and ask how they did things. Like the "'tater hill"; the outdoor winter storage mound for sweet potatoes. How was it constructed? My mother has only a vague idea, somthing about straw. My grandfather always made it.

I am left to find my way using books and the internet. Sean's garden is a good place for beginners:

sweet potato futures
seedlings on table

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Little Known Veggie

Bright Lites Swiss Chard 2013

We were at a dinner at UNC-Pembroke this week were my husband announced to our table that our dinner table at home is covered with pots of seedlings and seed packets. It's true. They also line the kitchen window sills and clutter the counters. Fact is , I have projects everywhere, even Katie's bedroom, because it's sunny and warm there. Perhaps it's time for a greenhouse, with a brick floor and a solar panel for a lightbulb and a chair's turning into a conservatory. Anyway, this hapless group of victims didn't see it coming when they asked disbelieving, "What can you grow now!?" I started listing and when I took a breath to continue one poor soul asked, "What is Swiss Chard." I really will have to send him a bag because it is my answer to the spinach germination problem. Spinach is just so picky about conditions for sprouting and then God forbid it should get hot for even a day. It will bolt in a heartbeat. But, Swiss Chard is a most forgiving substitute with the most beautiful edible stems. It doesn't mind heat if planted and established in spring and will grow under cover all winter. It stands in nicely for spinach in recipes so I don't bother trying to grow Popeye's greens any more. Swiss Chard has a cut and come again quality about it too. Win-win.
Joy's eggs and my Swiss Chard 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Plant now!

March update:
Garden sown carrots, radishes, lettuces, and bok choi are up! Tiny seedlings that get a mist with water every day so they won't dry out.
Tranplanted broccoli, brussels and lettuces are looking good. The cold nor cutworms hurt them. Potatoes are in the ground but not up yet. I won't believe they worked until I see shoots coming up.  We added more asparagus to our plot. Last year's plants are sending up fat shoots. I transplanted savoy cabbage grown from seed this afternoon.
Cutworms decimated our peas. I am seriously 'bout to open up a can o' chemicals. I'm all about Neem and BT and hand squishing but it's been take-no-prisoners with Us-0, Them-All. The worms ate my beet seedlings too! We replanted shelling peas and snow peas after soaking them overnight in a cup of warm water just this morning and I planted more beets because I am on a mission to succeed with beets.
Roma tomato seeds and summer crisp lettuce are in pots of very warm soil under my new cover.
Check out the Featured Video of how to make one on the organic gardening page of Mother Earth News. It is no-brainer easy. I did it all by myself last Saturday morning. It works!  Made with fencing, plastic sheeting, and drum roll for multi-tasking, a stapler. It's light enough for lil' ole' me to pick up and move around and took just a few minutes to put together. Brilliant!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How sweet it is!

Carrots. I just love growing carrots. When I was a kid they were my favorite vegetable. Not cooked, raw. The coolest thing about carrots is the sound they make when pulled. It is delightful and if I were a little girl I'm sure I would giggle with joy over the whole process. I have actually been selfish and gotten my neighbor's granddaughter to pull carrots just to hear her giggle. It works every time. Which make me think I'll grow her her own pot of mini carrots. Easter gifts! Will do today!
My Fall carrots are maturing and I'm eating them as I thin them. How sweet they are, my Fall planted carrots! Young tender carrots do not need peeling.  Just rinse them, pop them in, nosh, and compost the tops. I seeded more today directly in one of the covered beds. Christmas gifts from son JB. Now that's a thoughtful gift :)

You pay high dolla' for these in fancy pants restaurants, y'all!