Monday, January 7, 2013

It is never too early to plan a new garden....

With a new year come plans for a new garden. The chance to begin again is reassuring because as we resolve to be healthier, happier or both we can also seek to avoid the mistakes made in last year’s garden that resulted in too few tomatoes, too many weeds and not enough time to fix either one of them.

The seed catalogs are trickling in earlier than ever before. Glorious examples of impossibly perfect plants set me up for failure before the ground is even broken. I have been gardening for way too many years to believe perfect tomatoes don’t have cracks and are certainly not susceptible to disease or blight.

For me perfect tomatoes are the ones I grow myself. I can cut the ugly parts off before they reach the salad or the salsa.

While the seed and garden catalogs might be unrealistic there are ways to improve the garden before the garden is planted. Taking the time to figure out why plants performed poorly will allow a mediocre garden to be one that produces bumper crops and hours of therapeutic enjoyment for the gardener.

Solutions might be as simple as correcting soil pH or watering more often at the correct time of day. The novice gardener might make the mistake of thinking if a little is good a lot must be great. Wrong. Too much of anything whether it is fertilizer, pesticide or even water can cause a host of problems that might not show up until it is too late for a second chance.

Remember why you garden and if you’ve never gardened before consider the purpose of taking on such an endeavor that could make you the happiest person on the planet or dip you into a world of madness. Effective communication begins with listening. Listen to your garden. Listen to what it is telling you.

January is a great time to plan and dream and a great time to resolve to be realistic about the garden and what you hope to get from it. If you are a busy person and rarely home except to eat and sleep a big garden might not be the best idea.

Big gardens take time and energy, lots of energy. Big gardens also take money. Unless you have resources, tools and time you will need a way to finance the garden that was supposed to bring healthy food to the table at a cost lower than that from a supermarket or farmers’ market.

A small garden that is well tended will be more productive, look better and benefit you and your family a lot more than the south forty gone wild.

Plant what you love and in amounts that can be eaten or preserved for later use. This is a concept I cannot stress enough. The seed catalogs will seduce you with eggplants in a variety of sizes and colors that have never before been seen in nature. If you do not like eggplant do not plant eggplant.

If you love peppers plant peppers but unless you have a cannery, a family of 16 or a full time staff there is no reason to plant 72 pepper plants. Monoculture can and does take place in agriculture as well as in some backyard gardens. The problem with planting too much of one thing is that one pest or disease can wipe out your entire garden.

Another problem with planting too much of one thing is the alienation you will experience from friends, neighbors and coworkers who don’t want any more of your vegetables!

2013 shall prove to be a good year. My daughter turns 10, my house turns 146 and once again I am after the perfect tomato from my backyard garden.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Turning 10

I don't know if it is true for boys but for girls the right of passage as one enters the realm of double digits is important. Turning 10 is not as important as say turning 16 or 18 or 21. It might not be AS important but to a girl who has had nine birthdays the tenth birthday is one to remember.

I can remember my own. It was a warm November day, one that would be called Indian Summer by TV weather reporters or readers of the Farmers Almanac or Yankee.

I wore a long-sleeved striped v-neck sweater on a day that was filled with the smell of autumn brought on by wind gusts that travelled across a former corn field that was now home to a real estate development that displaced numerous four-legged creatures while creating a forbidden playground for me and my brothers.

I stood beneath the maple trees in the front yard of our rented house glowing in my 10 year old skin as I posed with my new 10 speed bicycle while my dad snapped a picture with the Polaroid camera.

Immortalized forever. 10!

It was a glorious red bicycle that would carry me to the pool and the houses of friends. It was 1979.

Everything about the bike was perfect.  It was red and it had the curled handle bars and gears that would make climbing the hill to the pool easier and coming down the same hill faster and more exciting than the purple banana seat bike I once thought was so cool.

I was tall for 10 and it wouldn't be long before I was trailing nervously behind my mom as she bought me my first bra at Montgomery Ward or Penney's at Miracle Lane Shopping Center.

Good Lord.

Now my own daughter is turning 10. 

Francesca was born just before 4 o'clock in the afternoon on a cold January day. A dusting of snow blew about on the dry parking lot I could see from my window at the hospital and reminded me of powdered sugar.

On January 9 Francesca will turn 10.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Year Off

I didn't intend to stop writing SIFT but I did. I think it is time to get back to it.