Food

Feeling Seedy

Dreaming of summer

Attend

What: Garden Seed Swap

When: 3 pm Sun., Feb. 11

Where: The Majestic, 1027 N. Forest St.

Cost: By donation

Info: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

As another crop of seed catalogs arrives in the mail, my thoughts turn to next summer’s garden, and to the words of Tim Cahill, the adventure writer.

“I am a man who sits around at home reading wilderness survival books the way some people peruse seed catalogs or accounts of classic chess games,” Cahill wrote in Jaguars Ripped My Flesh.

As a peruser of seed catalogs, I think it’s a fair comparison. All three of these pursuits can occur in one’s slippers, over a cup of tea. They all invoke issues of survival, but gardening requires the most integrated of skill sets, combining the strategy and foresight of a chess master with the survivalist’s intimate knowledge of their landscape, and their ability to adjust on the fly to changing conditions.

A garden is a place for whimsy, creativity and relaxation, and it’s important to be clear about your expectations. Especially now, when you have a bunch of seed catalogs spread before you.

One easy rule of thumb is to rule out any plants that need to be planted inside and in pots. I don’t care if you have a sunny windowsill. Unless you have a real grow space and the proper gear, growing your own starts is a losing proposition. Unless you really know what you are doing, your tomato seedlings will probably be an embarrassment compared to the greenhouse-grown beauties you can purchase at the farmers market.


While students of chess and wilderness survival look to history for guidance, perusers of seed catalogs and heirloom seed aficionados tend to look forward, focused on what is new and hitherto unknown. (Yeah, pineapple strawberries, I’m talking to you.) Or on things that, for whatever reason, are less available on the open market, like radicchio.

The only thing I grow in large enough quantities to store and replant is garlic. The rest of the garden, I plant to eat. The blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and peas are for the eating and frolicking of the kids, while the grownups appreciate the basil, radicchio and cucumbers. All of these can be ordered from a seed catalog and planted directly, without having to be grown inside. Climbing plants like beans should also be procured, as well as plants for them to climb, like sunflowers. As soon as the ground can be worked, plant a handful of peas and beans. When they come up, plant the rest, and your sunflowers among them.

The garden is for playing, throughout the summer. For running outside when you want a cucumber, but not for making jar upon jar of pickles. For making a tomato salad, but not a load of tomato sauce.

Gardeners would do well to listen to their inner chess nerds and strategize accordingly, deciding what will be ordered and what will be purchased at the farmers market. I strongly recommend a large bag of basil, to be seeded in every blank spot in the garden.

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