Mar 23, 2009

The Impossible Dream -- Seed Greed 2009

Seduced by the first warm (65+ degrees F), sunny (as in actual sun), calm Spring Equinox day in living memory, I ordered seeds last Friday. Finally. Most years I go a little crazy, and order seeds in a kind of momentary, blissful amnesia, conveniently forgetting that I garden in a place with a 90 day growing season (official extension service estimate) and frost possible any day of the year. Still, after 35 years of this, I usually manage to rein in my seed greed fairly well.

I make a list of everything I want to grow, pore over catalogs, make extensive lists, compare varieties, draw up orders, prune them way back, then order. Even so, I always end up with ridiculous numbers of things like tomatoes and lettuce.

Most people make lists of New Year's Resolutions in January. I make mine now.

This year I am determined to do a little better at growing food and watering consistently and keeping track and harvesting. I usually start out with nice charts for everything, a detailed planting schedule, and initial documentation of every seedling. By midsummer I have lost interest in writing anything down and by the time the tomatoes are really coming on (late August, early September), it is a desperate scramble to hustle them, green fruits and near-ripe, into every bowl and bin I can lay my hands on, all varieties jumbled together, in a desperate, flashlight-aided, 9 pm pre-frost harvest session.

This year I am also determined to plan, order and plant frugally and sensibly. Who am I kidding, thinking I need 12 varieties of tomato - in a climate where only the toughest, fastest, and luckiest varieties survive and fruit? What is the point of trying to grow peppers, which take even longer and which I am allergic to, for heaven's sake?

So I firmly took myself in hand as I made out my seed orders. I made out brief, sensible lists. Truly stripped to the bare minimum. Frugality! Common sense! Sticking to the budget! No impossible crops. No zonal denial.

It all worked beautifully at first. Then I made my usual mistake: I went through each catalog from first to last page, just to make sure I wasn't leaving out anything Vital. And allowed myself to add a tomato here, a lettuce there, just one more, what can it hurt, it looks so yummy..... so cute..... so doable.... seed is cheap...... Really, I have room for it. Them. And ended up with a vast list of veggies that includes 3 kinds of kale (come on, it grows so well here), 9 kinds of lettuce (I promise I'll keep better track of succession planting dates), and 6 kinds of bush beans.

And included in this list is this year's Impossible Dream selection. Every year I set out to grow one crop that is pretty much impossible for our climate. It's good for me. It builds character. And it gives The Manly Man food for years of ridicule. He still gives me a hard time about the artichokes. About 10 or 15 years ago I had a moment of weakness at the local garden center (I have lots of those, but this one coincided with a momentary attack of insanity) and bought 3 spindly artichoke plants. They struggled through our spring frosts and our intense summer sun, and finally succumbed to a severe infestation of the hugest, stickiest, creepiest mass of BLACK aphids I have ever seen in my life.
Another year I planted Brandywine tomatoes. Due to a miraculously long frost-free summer and an extended, frost-free Indian Summer, I got 5 mature fruits, 2 of which actually almost nearly ripened. We won't mention the year of the watermelon. In my defense, I can proudly say that in those 35 years, I have grown at least 3 miniature cantaloupes and have achieved 5 or 6 stunted, gap-rowed ears of corn.

I don't know what happened to me this year, but here is my list of not just one, or even two, but 5 crops for The Impossible Dream 2009:

1. Artichokes. I haven't seen a black aphid in years.

2. Melons. 2 kinds. Hey, I have row cover.

3. Beans for drying. They'll take a little frost, right?

4. Chili peppers. For chiles rellenos. I can probably eat them.

5. Sweet potatoes. WHAT!? Am I nuts?

Still, I did well, for me. No mangos or avocado trees.
Maybe next year.
Meanwhile, I will start stocking up now on old sheets ...........

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