Apr 11, 2009

April Volunteerism

Thus far in my gardening career, 'overwintering crops' have been mostly accidental. Aside from the weeds, which happily sprout, unasked, from the soil in earliest, earliest spring, the first things to green up in my garden are volunteer seedlings and last year's on-purpose plantings of hardy greens.

At this time of year, still 2 months from our last expected frost (except for the bonus frosts we get after our so-called last expected frost -- June 10 or so), I'm interested in EATING SOMETHING FROM THE GARDEN RIGHT NOW. And right around April 1 is when I find the first shoots of kale, chard, and what I can only describe as 'miscellaneous asian greens', springing up in scattered locations around the yard. Over the years I have planted many varieties, and either I have forgotten what some of them look like, or they have been promiscuously mating behind my back, because I have no idea what most of them might be, other than edible greens.

By mid-April they have all grown big enough that I can go out every couple of days and pick what my Southern forebears might have called 'a mess of greens' for the dinner table, and that's what we had last night. Oh heavens, what a sweet taste! Surely the North Carolinians would have been growing collards, not my northern version (kale and collards are the same species), or any of 'them fancy (Asian) kinds' ..... but we all crave that intense greenness in our diets about now. I have never found anything for sale, not even in the freshest of fresh, organic produce section or farmers' market, that approaches the taste of greens straight from the garden.

This spring greens season is super short, which makes it all the more precious. We go from first pokings-up to big juicy leaves to (bonus! bonus! bonus! crop) flower buds in maybe 6 weeks overall. By sometime in May, depending on the weather, I can't keep ahead of their urge to bloom, despite daily pickings, and the flowers open in a burst of bienniel procreation bliss that is beloved of neighborhood bees. After a few days of this, somewhat guiltily, I pull out the towering plants and, followed by a few persistent pollen-gatherers, chop them all up and add them to the compost pile.

This year, in my goal of really, really carrying out a well-organized and dedicated fall-winter planting scheme, I am going to sow a big chunk of greens in the warmest part of my garden, come August, instead of just waiting to see what shows up next spring.

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