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2008.01.23

January 23, 2008

I’ve spent the last few days poring through the seed catalogs, making my vegetable picks for this year’s garden.   We order the seeds early and germinate them indoors, you see.The first pass is always easy:  tomatoes, peppers, snow peas, green beans, lettuce, spinach.  (We’ve decided against zucchini, eggplant, and cucumber this year; we just don’t go through them quickly enough, and we don’t have enough friends, neighbors and relatives to palm them all off on.)

After that, things get a little more involved.  Do we want to try some other veggies?  Are we going to do corn again, and if so, will it be popping corn or eating corn, or both?  They say kids like to grow pumpkins – do we want to grow pumpkins?  and so forth.

Once those questions are out of the way, then it’s time to get down to brass tacks and select which varieties.   Which brings on more questions:  Is it better to choose early-ripening vegetables over big-producers?  Are sweeter but smaller fruits preferable to larger but blander?  And if we have to choose between disease-resistant and drought-resistant, which is best?

Perhaps I should pause here to mention that our backyard vegetable garden area is a whopping 20 square feet.   Oh, the corn runs along our driveway fence, and the lettuce, spinach, beans and snow peas go in containers, so they don’t count; that 20 square feet is purely tomato and pepper territory.   But at one plant per square foot, that’s 20 plants max, so we really need to choose wisely.

Getting down to the varieties is my favorite part of the process, actually.  I like reading the descriptions, and comparing one against another.  I especially enjoy cross-checking the same varieties in different catalogs; you’d be surprised to see how the descriptions change.  In my favorite seed catalog, some of the turns of phrase are fantastic.  Like this description for a slicing tomato, Cosmonaut Volkov:

Always good and occasionally sublime, Cosmonaut delivers the true tomato taste…What makes Cosmonaut so special? In a word, the juice: sweet rich and full-bodied. Cosmonaut was named for the Russian explorer who fell through space. From Dnepropetrovsk in the Ukraine, brought to America by the Seed Savers Exchange. Our motto: Out of outer space and into your mouth!

This description got me last year; we grew Volkov’s and they are fantastic – the best slicing tomatoes I’ve ever grown, bar none.  We’re getting another packet this year.

Last year we put in a raised bed and tried the square-foot gardening method.  It worked like a charm.  This year we’re adding a drip line to the bed, and attaching it to the rain barrel, which should make watering even simpler than last year.

We’re still in a state of indecision on the front and side yards.  With the porch reconstruction scheduled for spring, I don’t know when I’ll be able to plant anything out front, or if I’ll be able to plant anything at all.  We put in a few salvias and lavendars last year, both of which are supposedly perennials, but who knows what will really come back?

The side yard needs a lot of work.  There are diseased rosebushes and non-producing begonias there, amid a long bed of weeds and weedlike plants.  I’m inclined to rip it all out, but then what to install?   In the past six weeks or so I’ve decided on about 19 different things:  Water garden!  Herbs!  No, sunflowers!  English cottage garden!  Zen garden!

Needless to say, I still have no idea.  Luckily the vegetable catalogs are holding me over for now…I’ll worry about the rest later, when the flower and plant catalogs start to come in.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 23, 2008 5:37 pm

    I love spring. And I find it rather ironic, in a very funny way, that you are writing about starting seeds today. Oh, the irony……you’ll understand soon…when you go about your blog reading.

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