STARTING FRESH

I have always appreciated a fresh start. I like mornings. The first of the month. I even like Mondays – although I’ve never been a nine-to-fiver, which I’m sure helps with that. Did you have “do over”s when you were a kid? I like those too. And here we are in the New Year, the biggest fresh start of all. 

So I’m calling this blog post a fresh start. I’m sorry I’ve neglected it for so long. I know how frustrating it can be to follow a blog and look forward to a new post and not get one. First it’s disappointing. Then it’s annoying. Then it makes you angry. Eventually you give up. I can’t blame you. I’ve done it too. I won’t make any promises, but I missed you and I hope you’ll come back and see what’s happening in the garden from time to time.

We’ve had a pretty mild winter so far, and I’ve been able to continue to eat out of my garden, which is really gratifying. We had our first hard freeze only a few nights ago, I think it got down to 16º. We’ll see how it looks out there tomorrow when it warms up a bit, but last I checked I still had

Swiss chard,

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kale,

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collard greens,

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broccoli raab, which went crazy and tried to escape the hoop –

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fortunately I found a really cute weight to hold down the floating row cover – 

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and leeks.

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We’ll see how much longer everything lasts.

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I’ve been pretty busy out there even so. It has long been a personal goal of mine to create enough compost to be able to give all my beds a layer of homemade organic matter at the end of the season. I’ve been working towards closing that loop since I started my garden three years ago and I got much closer this year. I was able to put a 2″ layer of mulch on 237 ft² of a total 410 ft² of gardening space. I am determined to do the entire garden next year.

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I even sifted it! The empty beds got a nice helping of this black gold.

Then I got a cool leaf blower that also sucks.

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Ok, it doesn’t suck, it rocks, because it sucks up leaves and shreds them which reduces them about ten fold and makes a great (free!) mulch with which to put a bed to sleep for the winter. This will reduce spring weeding and encourage earthworms.

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Then, come spring, I’ll dig everything in and be good to go.

I also got the important fall planting done. On October 22, I planted French grey shallots.

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They are said to be the cremé de le crop of shallots and I mean to find out. (We’ll talk more about them later.)

On November 20th I planted three kinds of garlic, about 40 cloves in total. Two softnecks, Tochliavri and Broadleaf Czech and a hardneck, German Red.

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All were from the garlic I planted last year and harvested on June 24th. I used the largest, healthiest cloves I could find. Another loop closed.

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I still have garlic in storage in the garage, but a lot of it is starting to sprout. We’ll see if it lasts me through the winter. Here’s an interesting article on storing garlic from Rodale’s Organic Life website (http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/6-ways-make-garlic-last-longer). I must experiment with all those great methods next season.

Because it’s been so mild and there’s not much left to do in the garden proper, I’ve also been playing with rocks in the dirt. I’m expanding the perennial bed and making a border between it and the lawn.

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I don’t know what it says about me, but this is honestly one of my favorite things to do. If you live in the Ozarks, you probably have a pile of rocks somewhere on your property. If not, rest assured, they are there, just under the surface, daring you to dig a hole.

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That’s a hole I dug to plant a tree for a client and the pile of rocks that I excavated during the process.

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Indeed.

So that’s the lowdown. The seed catalogs are rolling in and we’ll be starting seeds here in a few short weeks. I’m determined to grow some nice cabbages this year, as well as Brussels sprouts, and I’m going to give artichokes and celery a go. I’m going to be diligent about the cucumber beetles and teach you how to make the best homemade cornichons. And I plan to turn more of my yard into a dedicated herb garden. I also have some fun projects to share with you. So please come back and visit.

Circling back to fresh starts, the only official New Year’s Resolution I made this year was to meditate daily. I know that learning to sit quietly with my thoughts is at the foundation of any sort of relationship I have with myself – and therefore anyone and anything else. And so far so good. I’ve missed a day or two in there and wondered why I was feeling antsy and more scattered than usual. But I forgave myself and did it the next morning. And while I realize that actual do overs are the stuff of school yards. That once life begins often the best we can do is stumble blindly through the underbrush, trying to keep up and not lose an eye. And that any wisdom we gain along the way is mostly through chances we didn’t take, mistakes we can’t take back, and betrayals we will always regret. I also realize that no one is immune from those experiences. If meditation is teaching me anything, it’s that every breath, every moment, is an opportunity to start fresh

I wish you all the fresh starts you can manage.

Happy New Year.

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ORDERING SEEDS

It’s decision time.  Not my personal favorite, never having been one for commitment, but you can’t get seeds in the mail and from there into the ground and from there onto your plate unless you decide which ones you want and order them.  So today’s the day.

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Here are the innocent looking culprits who have kept me up late into the night fantasizing.  They are all so different and wonderful and I am filled with gratitude to the people who dedicate their lives to saving and distributing heirloom seeds.  I think we’d all realize, if we thought about it long enough, that diversity is the key to most everything.  Healthy systems are diverse.  Whether the system is a garden, an eco-system, our body, an education, or our country – even an investment portfolio benefits from variety, or so I’ve heard.  Anyway, Viva Diversity!

The seed catalogs I’m ordering from this year are:

BAKER CREEK HEIRLOOM SEED CATALOG

This is the mac daddy of seed catalogs.  Jere Gettle has been gardening since he was three, started his first seed catalog when he was 17, and now has the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the US.  The tomatoes alone will make your head explode.  Eggplants, peppers, squash, melons, rare plants sourced from all over the globe, herbs, flowers, seriously everything.  They are located in Mansfield, MO (Road Trip!) but also have outposts in Petaluma, CA and Wethersfield, CT.  I wish their catalog had photos of all their vegetables, but if it did it would outweigh the September issue!  I could order all my seeds from them, but I prefer to spread it around a bit.  As major anti-GMO activists and educators, as well as publishers of the quarterly magazine Heirloom Gardener, they really are at the forefront of our new food movement.  If you see their 356-page The Whole Seed Catalog on the magazine stand give it a look, I promise you’ll see things you didn’t know existed.  And check out their excellent website: www.rareseeds.com

What I’m ordering from Baker Creek this year:

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JOHN SCHEEPERS KITCHEN GARDEN SEEDS

I know John Scheepers primarily as the premier source for Dutch bulbs in the U.S., which they’ve been since the early 1900‘s.  I received their Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog for the first time this year, and I really appreciate it.  Great descriptive writing, sweet illustrations, and a well-curated selection make this one a new favorite.  They aren’t as wholly heirloom as Baker Creek, but they are members of The Safe Seed Pledge.*    www.kitchengardenseeds.com

Here’s what I’m ordering from them this year:

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SEEDS FROM ITALY

Seeds from Italy are the exclusive mail-order distributor for Franchi Seeds, which is Italy’s oldest (1783) family-owned seed company.  They are located in Lawrence, Kansas and run by the Nagengast family.  They have signed The Safe Seed Pledge* and sell mostly OP (Open Pollinated) heirlooms.  The catalog is small, but chock full of magnifico semi!  They have a crazy selection of Chicory, Radicchio, Endive & Escarole, as well as tomatoes, squash, eggplant, beans, peppers, herbs, flowers, the works!  Check them out online at:  www.GrowItalian.com

Looking forward to these Italian specialties:

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JOHNNY’S SELECTED SEEDS

Johnny’s is a highly professional, employee-run business.  They have decades of experience and I can’t pick up their catalog without learning something.  They have great comparative charts and photos, as well as extensive growing information for each species, all of which are incredibly helpful.  They sell a lot of highly productive and disease-resistant hybrid varieties, a lot of which they breed themselves and then trial rigorously.  They also sell tons of great tools and supplies.  They seem more geared to professional growers, but that doesn’t mean a home gardener can’t find plenty to put on their wish list.  www.johnnyseeds.com

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SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE

Yet another great company.  Seed Savers Exchange is celebrating the 40th anniversary of their mission to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.”  To that end they operate a seed bank in Iowa that contains 20,000 heirloom and heritage varieties!  As educators they conduct workshops and offer resources to advance their mission.  Their catalog has beautiful photos of every variety, as well as seed saving materials and information.  They have a great selection of books and this year to celebrate their 40th anniversary they are offering 40 varieties of heritage apple trees.  They are member of the Safe Seed Pledge* and their website is:  www.seedsavers.org

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Now to decide where everything is going to go and when to start what.  Never a dull moment!


*AAS:  All America Selections.  See http://www.all-americaselections.org for more information.

*SAFE SEED PLEDGE:  This pledge was created in 1999 and has since been signed by 70 seed companies.  It reads as follows:

“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”