Thursday, February 25, 2016

Memories in the Garden

It is February and I am gearing up for the new season. I'm hoping for an exceptional season, but then aren't we all, always?

I've done a little bit of indoor seeding. The hot peppers are done, and it is a record number of varieties. My problem is of course too much seed. I believe I am done, but then I find an elusive pack or 20 and away I go again seeding the hots.  So I feel quite safe in saying that when the seedling sales begin in the spring, there will be not shortage of hot pepper seedlings.

I've got a good number of early tomatoes in too. My goal with the exceptional Stupice variety is to get 8-10 week old seedlings into my hoophouse by mid April and protect them carefully until they produce those very tasty first tomatoes in June. I salivate thinking about how very wonderful those first tomatoes taste after the tomato drought that is winter.

Today I seeded another 30 varieties of tomatoes. These will be for early planting too, as well as for earlier seedling sales and sales of larger plants.

Celery varieties, parsley, some herbs and a few oddball items such as my white currants, yellow pearls (what ARE these solanum family members?) and Wild Sicilian Asparagus are seeded. The yellow pearls popped nearly immediately, despite the warning on the package that said I would wait 4 weeks.

It is pretty amazing how quickly things pop, but of course I plan it that way. My initials seedings are placed under (and on) my 3 tiered light set in my kitchen, which is right beside my wood stove that is our primary source of heat in the winter.  I can pretty reliably depend on tomatoes germinating  in 3 or 4 days.

I enjoy looking through my seeds, and it is usually a wonderful stroll down memory lane. If heirlooms are family treasures, I sure have some wonderful reminders of who the seed came from or who liked certain varieties that I grow.

My mom was an heirloom gardener long before it was the thing to do. In fact, I suspect heirloom and heritage varieties were terms that had not been coined yet to describe special open pollinated seed varieties.

I will not divulge my age here, but as a child/teenager in the 60's and 70's, I remember mom growing ground cherries, tomatillos, jerusalem artichokes, yellow pear and Brandywine tomatoes. If it was different she wanted to grow it. That sort of sounds like me, I suppose and it is nice to know I come by this obsession quite naturally.

As I began growing more and more, mom found new favourites in some old varieties I was growing, and adopted them in her own garden. I will always think of my mom when I plant "Straight n' Narrow beans, Persimmon and Cuban Wild Grape, vine peaches and Lincoln peas in my garden. I'll always grow them. She had amazing taste.

Sadly a dear friend passed away in December just before Christmas. She was a gardening buddy, and at 99 years of age, the joy of gardening kept her going I believe. Until losing her eyesight she read gardening books and catalogues and for 10 or more years I would search out varieties she sought, pass seed along to her, and plant a few myself.

She didn't like tomatoes, but she sure liked her peppers with a bit of heat. Alma Paprika was her favourite, Beaverdam was good. Last year I got her some Jacob's Cattle Gasless beans, and she managed to plant them. The rows weren't straight, but they grew and she pronounced them good tasting, but very hard to shell. My assessment too.
This year she wanted to grow one of the "Vee" corns, and I found Early Vee for her. In fact she wanted me to grow it here, because of her problems with racoons. She felt I could leave my dogs out overnight to guard it. Of course my 3 might consider it if I put the couch in the garden for them. In other words, that wasn't going to happen.

Rest in peace, Irena.

I'll continue to plant these varieties in my garden and hold onto the seed and the memories.
Gardens can indeed grow both.