Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hillbilly Potato Leaf, Cherokee Purple

Sheepnose Pimento,
Red Brandywine,
Beam's Yellow Pear,
Jimmy Nardello,
Early Jalapeno,
Ancho Gigantea....
I think that's what I've planted so far, though I may have forgotten one or two.

One of the problems of early spring, only made worse in full spring, is that there's just too much to do. Migrant birds are starting to arrive, flowers and other plants are showing life in the garden(Winter Jasmine, Hellebore, Bloodroot and Witch Hazel -- seen in photos below) as well as in the woods. And if like my wife and myself you grow vegetables and flowers from seed, it's time to be planting!

Plants bought at nurseries, plant sales, and elsewhere in late spring are generally far more developed than ours are at that time. So if we were to buy them we'd get edible vegetables and flowering flowers earlier. But we wouldn't get 'Sheepnose Pimento Peppers' or 'Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomatoes'.

We've grown vegetables, herbs and flowers from seed for at least 20 years now. It's far more work. And now more than when we started it competes with birding time, hiking time, art time and gardening time. So I'm a bit late getting seeds ordered and planted. The photo ab top shows the first batch of plantings. These are all in the nightshade family: tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. These always seem to need the most time between planting and being transplanted into the garden: 8-10 weeks.

Along with the problem of finding time to order seeds and plant them, I need time to watch them and make sure that they're not drying out, or too wet. I need to transplant them when they get too large for their pots, and eventually they need to be transplanted into the garden. But it is worth it.

Most of the plants we grow are heirloom varieties. Many come from Seed Savers Exchange, though a good number are also from Johnnys Selected Seeds. We really like the idea of helping to keep alive types of vegetables that are rarely offered for sale. We're helping to keep seed diversity alive. And there's also the names, e.g. "Hillbilly Potato Leaf," "Cherokee Purple."

But mainly it's just the taste. You can't beat the taste of Brandywine, Green Zebra and Mexico Midget tomatoes, of Apple, Sweet Chocolate and Sheepnose Pimento peppers! Summer will bring all sorts of butterflies to add color to the already incredibly colorful Benary's Giant Zinnias. And of course the basil, parsley and other herb seeds will eventually lead to plants whose flavor will enhance every meal we eat from June through at least September.

So just as the first migrating Icterids(blackbirds) hint at the colorful warblers and other neotropical migrant birds of May, these tiny seeds and seedlings hint at the full richness of summer. It's starting to feel warmer and sunnier already.

I hope to return to art work soon. But planting was a necessary detour.


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Ah yes, the northern growing season. I'm spoiled living in SC. But, I now have the time pressure of getting all the prepping done before the humidity begins. I tend to hug the AC unit from June through September.

Ken Januski said...

Hi Pam,

The furthest south I've ever been is Kentucky, which is really a border state. But when I do think of the south I think humidity, and then sort of shudder!

No matter where you go you get the good and the bad. Here in Philadelphia we have a much longer growing season than when I lived in upstate New York. But then we no longer have the occasional beauties of a real winter. When I lived near San Francisco, the weather was often beautiful but I missed the seasons of the midwest where I'd grown up.........

But I do envy you now. I'm sure that the weather is starting to be gorgeous.