I was unsure if I should even write a post this week. The events of the past two weeks have been jarring, and they exposed the deep wounds that racism continues to inflict on the nation. I pray for comfort, justice and peace for all of those who are hurting now. While I agree that silence is complicity, I also think that we don’t all need to speak at once. This period has been a time of deep reflection for me, and I intend to write more fully about that in a future Left Field post. I just don’t have the words yet, so I have been gardening and praying.
We finally had a string of hot, sunny days that allowed me to finish planting the gardens. If you read my post on pandemic gardening, you know that we added a second vegetable garden that has grown in size to now be ~4000 square feet. I already purchased some seeds prior to the pandemic but not all that I needed. Luckily I purchased a survival garden seed vault several years ago. The seed vault went into my disaster preparedness kit. (Yes, I have a disaster preparedness kit. You should too so you don’t have to get into a Hunger Games scenario hunting for toilet paper whenever there is a calamity.) I cracked open the vault this spring and used some of the vault seeds to supplement what I already had.
Here is a list of what I have planted so far:
- three varieties of potatoes
- four varieties of tomatoes – about 50 plants in total
- two varieties of lettuce
- yellow crook neck squash
- green peppers
- banana peppers
- swish chard
- bush beans
- pole beans
- lima beans
- green onions
- winter squash – butternut, acorn, and pink banana
- gladiolas – You can’t eat these but they are pretty.
What do you think is the most important crop I am growing in my garden? You might guess potatoes for their high calorie content. You might guess lima beans because they are high in protein. The single most important crop I am growing this year is…….SEEDS. My goal is to learn how to save seeds so that I never have to buy seed again. Gardeners everywhere used to do this. Our ancestors couldn’t run to Home Depot every spring. Seed saving isn’t done much anymore, and it is trickier than you might think.
Some seeds are easy to save. Think of a pumpkin. Everybody who has carved a jack-o-lantern has experiencing scooping out pumpkin seeds. Wash off the slime, dry them, save them, plant them next year. That’s not difficult. Have you ever considered how you get seeds from other vegetables like carrots, spinach, lettuce or radishes? I let some of my early spring radishes grow so I could collect the seed. Radishes grow into large flowering plants over 3 feet tall. After the flowers are pollinated, they form seed pods. When the pods are dry, you can open them and collect the seed.
Carrots are trickier. Carrots are biennials and won’t flower and produce seeds until next spring. Every vegetable has its own idiosycracies that you have to learn in order to successfully grow it and save the seeds. You also must take care to save seeds from heirloom plants. Many of the seeds sold in stores today are from hybrid plants not heirloom plants. Seeds saved from hybrid plants won’t always germinate or won’t be true to the parent plant. If you want to save seeds, use heirloom plant varieties.
This week the garden has been offering its first signs of encouragement. Squash blossoms have appeared. I have started harvesting lettuces for our evening dinner salads. The beans have all sprouted, and some of the tomato plants are tall enough to tie to stakes. We are starting to move into the fun phase of gardening. There is a very hard, depressing period that lasts between when seeds are planted and when plants get large enough to make you think you might actually have a harvest. During that waiting period, you do nothing except remove weeds and have faith that the seeds will eventually grow. Perhaps that is a metaphor for the period our world is in now. Seeds have been planted. We must now go through a period where we faithfully tend the garden even when we can’t see the progress for which we long. After this period of struggle, an abundant harvest is produced that can be shared by all.