Gardening in February

It’s early February and that’s a big time in the garden. Harvesting a steady stream of lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower; a couple of weeks away from picking snow peas, snap peas and celery; and getting in the last cool weather plantings – spinach, radishes, beets and more lettuce. These are fast crops that will mature in March. I’m trying a new (to me) variety of radish from Germany in honor of my bride. It’s a variety called Parat and claims to remain crisp and sweet no matter how large they get. Other varieties turn to wood if you let them go to long. The really nice thing about growing radishes is that you get nearly instant results – the seeds germinate in a couple of days and you are eating them within a month. Nancy has a bridge friend who’s husband grows a garden only for radishes. That seems a little much but I sort of understand it. Other than cutting them up in salad, there are two other reasons I grow radishes. One as markers. I plant them at the same time and place as I plant carrots because it takes so long for the carrot seed to germinate that you can easily lose track of where they are. If you plant radishes along side, you know where the carrots will eventually pop up. The other reason is a little suspect. Supposedly if you plant radishes with cucumbers, it will ward off the evil cucumber beetles. Last year I had radishes, cucumbers and cucumber beetles. When cucumber season comes around in a few months I’ll try my German radishes – maybe they’re meaner; or maybe Parat means beetle killer in German.

The quick results you get from radishes contrasts with onions and celery that take 4 months from start to finish. I put onions and celery in way back in October and still have yet to get product. I pull a few onions when a recipe called for green onions and under duress will cut a stalk of celery but they really are not ready yet. Last year I started onions from purchased starts which cut the time more than a month but this year went the seed route. The difference in cost was $12 vs $2 but I didn’t do it for that reason. With the plants basically all the onions mature at the same time so we were overwhelmed; with seeds I stagger plant and we should have a continuous stream for months – that is if they ever mature. And for whatever reason, this celery crop is far nicer than I’ve produced in the past two years. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the richer soil – who knows but it sure looks good.

February is also seed catalog reading and ordering season. I get about 10 different catalogs and pore over them to pick the exact right mix of old standbys and brand new offerings that can’t be missed. This year I’m trying a couple of new seed companies that have dazzled me with their catalog. The seeds come from Maine, Wisconsin, Oregon, South Carolina and even offshore – I ordered cabbage seed that was grown in the Netherlands and a variety of lettuce from England. My ordering gets more sophisticated with each season as I learn more about what diseases and critters I’m dealing with and selecting varieties to ward them off. By the middle of this month I’ll have received all the seeds and started some indoors in preparation of transplanting them at the end of March or early April. I have 5 different varieties of tomatoes planned – still searching for the perfect ones for Barberville. Ditto squash which has been a consistent disaster here. Either underground critters, flying critters, virus, or mildew seem to nail me season after season. I’m not ready to give up yet and will pull out all the stops this year.

One of my seed catalogs, Kitchen Garden Seeds, is sprinkled with gourmet recipes. Most involve items I’d not much care to eat – too European for my taste buds – but one popped out at me and it just so happened that we had everything we needed to make it right then and there. I’m not much of a potato guy but this sounded pretty good. It was a recipe from the Hopkins Inn in Connecticut. They’re called Rosti potatoes spelled with two dots over the “o” so it’s a German recipe. It’s actually a large potato pancake with a few slight modifications. Boy was it good. So good that I’m going against tradition and planning to plant a row of potatoes in the garden. I’ve never grown potatoes. mainly because they were so cheap in Utah that it didn’t make sense to take up garden space. In fact I’m going to take the big plunge and grow both red potatoes and sweet potatoes. Well, just a little plunge. I don’t know if the nematodes in the garden will feast on potatoes so I’m going to plant just a short row and use Winn Dixie little red potatoes as opposed to sending away for expensive fancies. Usually in a bag of potatoes there are a couple that have started growing and should be just fine for an experimental crop. At least that’s my theory. The obvious flaw in my plan is that if they don’t grow or do well, will it be because of the variety chosen or the local conditions?? I did look in the seed catalogs for some guidance but none of them mentioned the word nematode so even if I sent away for them, there would be no guarantee.

That same seed company emailed us a vegetable soup recipe designed to use all the stuff from the garden. I looked over the recipe and saw an item listed as EVOO. I knew I never grew anything named EVOO but figured Nancy would fake a replacement part. Guess what EVOO is – extra virgin olive oil. Any way, the soup was awesome and we had all the vegetables called for in stock. The single recipe made enough feed a small army so either I’ll have lots of lunches backlogged or Joey will take it all home with him on his next trip over.

PS: The fishing is so bad that I started taking Fish Oil capsules so I would smell like a fish and maybe start thinking like a fish. Desperate in Barberville.

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