Friday, May 28, 2004

Short and sweet

The last couple of weeks remind me of the reason for planting early spring crops. Each February I rethink the effort to plant snow peas and lettuce. They will be enjoyed for such a short time. Our springs frequently change abruptly to hot weather and these crops suffer. In addition, the beds are needed for the summer crops mentioned earlier. Already I have transplanted the eggplant and peppers into gallon pots, where they can stretch out a bit while they wait for their own raised bed, presently occupied by peas.

Those first salads of tender lettuce and spinach with homemade blue cheese dressing dissolve any doubts I might have had! These are nightly appreciated. The snow and snap peas, those that make it in from the garden, stir-fried lightly in a tiny drizzle of fruity olive oil then tossed with golden raisins....well, there it is.

Lettuce varieties for 2004: 'Plato', 'New Red Fire', 'Green Ice', 'Buttercrunch', 'Cimmaron' all from Pinetree Seeds. Also 'Crispy Frills' a freebie from someone.

Spinach varieties for 2004 : 'Space', Corretta'. Also from Pinetree

Pea varieties for 2004 : 'Mega' snap peas and "Oregon Sugar Pod II' snow peas from Territoral Seeds

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Basil day

It’s time to plant the basil (Ocimum basilicum). The weather should be mild with afternoon showers…perfect. Setting out basil seedlings is a true pleasure, the fragrance evoking a summer state of mind.

Continuing the annual pursuit of the perfect pesto, I selected two varieties for this year’s trial. The names were similar and I expected the plants to be similar as well. I was mistaken. The leaves of ‘Genovese’ from Kitchen Garden Seeds are lance shaped and pointed while ‘Profuma di Genova’ from Renee’s Garden Seeds has round broad leaves.

Other basils, apart from the main pesto crop, include the lovely 2002 AAS winner ‘Magical Michael’ from Park’s. Though not particularly useful as a culinary herb, the fragrant, showy blooms certainly make it worth growing.

Had I known that I would have extra space in front of the newly redesigned tomato bed I certainly would have also started some ‘Spicy Globe’ basil for this spot. I only hope I can find some seedlings at a garden shop!

Planting the basil seedlings marks the beginning of the summer season more convincingly than any particular calendar day. Basil is the essence of summer, holding the promise of months of garden abundance, and the annual planting of the basil bed is one gardening ritual that personifies the whole gardening experience. Here’s to summer!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


The ritual of planting the summer crops has a certain comfort. I plant the same seedlings each year, at about the same time. These are the summer crops. Tomatoes, cucumbers and squash are planted right away but waiting to plant eggplant and peppers is a function of a small garden; the peas must finish first to free the bed for these extra tender seedlings. In this climate waiting serves a purpose as the night temperatures will have warmed enough to (hopefully) assure success to those particularly cold-sensitive plants. This year provided an additional bonus – rain after transplanting. I would have hoped for warmer temperatures, but the blessed rain for new transplants cannot be better. Life is good.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Out of place, indeed

Describing a weed as merely a "plant out of place" has always seemed a little glib. We can probably all agree that quack grass qualifies as a weed but what of those plants, sought out and planted with intent, that prove unruly?

When I took possession of my present garden I was delighted to find a small bed devoted to herbs. It was in disrepair but with the good bones of well established plants such as lavender and rosemary. I started my planning during the grey rains of Oregon winter, a strategy that has proved the undoing of more than one gardener! I remembered the vivid,almost dayglo, quality of flowers I had seen the previous summer. Nothing would do but to plant rose yarrow (Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen').

And it was lovely with gorgeous magenta/crimson blossoms against the dark green, ferny foliage. The second year I came to understand that a plant's sole purpose (anthropomorphic, you say?) is to produce more of itself. Rose yarrow now carpets the entire herb bed. I'm sure it would put on a lovely show, but what happens to my Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) and other low growing herbs?

A lesson learned regarding plants out of place, put in place or
otherwise. Hmmm, perhaps I can pawn some seedlings off on unsuspecting neighbors.... but that would be unkind.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

An embarrassment of tomatoes

Who could imagine 100% germination? The names were so intriguing, the descriptions and pictures so seductive ( and did I mention 100% germination?). I found myself with 100 plus tomato plants. Pressing them on family, friends, friends of friends, and the occasional stranger with the slightly crazed look of a gardener in spring, I have thinned the number by half. Surely any heirloom tomato fan who sees the varieties I chose this year will understand how this came to pass.