Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Patience and Death in the garden

One of you wrote that the Malabar seeds she took from me seemed not to germinate. I should have mentioned that they take at least three weeks to germinate, and then sit at less than a half inch high for another three weeks. No wonder they aren't too popular with Americans! Delayed gratification is not our forte.

Actually, most seeds take more than a week to germinate. After my birthday week, I sowed quite a few varieties in my greenhouse window in my own potting soil (eschewing the commercial stuff this year) and was startled at how long they took to pop up. That email plus my potting soil insecurity had me worrying, but it seems all is well. The basil and impatiens seedlings are tiny and prolific, but took at least 10 days to
start. I found some 12-packs in my cellar, and filled 3 of them. 36 TINY seedlings in mighty small spaces!

Another wrote that her seedlings have germinated but then die. She didn't say whether some or all die, and I realize there is a big difference. I've decided there are at least four categories of death of plants, which is very different from death of a pet.
I remember a student of mine long ago who did terribly on a math test. Afterward he told me that his pet turtle had died that morning, and he was too emotional to think. The turtle had been given to him at birth and he was very attached to it. I've never been nearly that attached to a plant.

Some death in the garden is good. I'm busy now cutting down dead irises, astilbe, and autumn sedum from last year, and it feels good as I see the new life rising below.
Some death is just "Oh, that's too bad," like the two of the 14 tomato plants I put out last month that I pulled out this week and the pak choi that just disappeared. This happens so often I just take it in stride. This time of year I try to have back-up seedlings, or just decide I had more than I need, as in these two cases.
Some death of plants is upsetting, as when an animal or person uproots a mature plant. I've had remarkably little of that in my experience.

This year the Grim Reaper has taken on new meaning in the form of Fear of Woodchucks. For almost 30 years sugar snap peas and broccoli were essential of my all-year eating. Last spring the woodchucks decimated them. This is far worse than one plant! Two years ago I froze 72 servings of peas after given lots away and binging on them at home. Last year I froze 4 servings. Most years I harvest fresh broccoli almost until Christmas and then eat the frozen stuff in the winter. Garden broccoli, fresh or frozen, is an entirely different food than what you buy in a store or restaurant. When Marion Nestle said she had established that the freshest broccoli available in NYC stores was 10 days old, I understood why.
I discovered a generous patch of new strawberry plants where I planted zinnias in my front yard last year. If folks stop by between 9:30 and 10:30 this Saturday morning, you can dig them out and take them away. They won't bear this year, but you can have a steady supply once they start. Let me know if you are coming if you can.
I wish someone could tell me if we will again have frost. It doesn't seem likely today, does it? Still, the punishment could be high if I guess wrong.


No comments: