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Monday, March 23, 2015

Its own reward

Waiting through dry spells to set out transplants in wet spells; waiting through wet spells to paint and mow.

The potted seedlings are growing slowly this year in spite of their heat and sun lamps. It takes eighteen flats of seedlings to fill the three spring-garden beds. I choose three at a time. I know I'm rushing it, but there has been so little frost that one wants to try. I'm afraid the heat will come suddenly and the spring things will want to bolt.

The green stripe you can see down the middle of each bed is broadbeans, the best eating size of favas. Their job here, aside from creating the beans, some edible foliage, and some soil nitrogen, is to shade the greens a bit and help stave off the anticipated intense summer sun.

Broadbeans are not as favored in these parts as in Europe. Americans have the idea each one must be peeled. Not so, but you want to get to them quickly after picking and shelling. Fresh is key. Frozen too, but again frozen fresh after a thorough blanching to stop the outer shell from armoring up. Good alone or in savory soups. You may also use the tender young leaves as a salad ingredient or in stir fries.

Again, this year, we have largely held off buying seeds as we have so many. I combine most of the year-old to three-years-old greens-and-roots seeds into a mixed lot in a shaker and shake out some over a flat of potting soil, then add a bit more soil, then water and light and warmth. anything that gets big enough is pricked out and put into its ow three-inch pot. Flats going out to the garden, a few weeks later, have eighteen plants each, which I randomize in the beds. In each hole there may go a Russian kale, a collard, a Red Sails lettuce, a Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, a Forellenschluss lettuce, a turnip, a green cabbage, a red cabbage, a Bok Choi, a borage plant, a calendula, a beet, a radish, a mangel, a Fordhook Giant chard, or a spinach. That seems to be the current mix. Carrots don't seem to perform well in this environment, so I have reserved them for their own setting, deep planters that are currently in the greenhouse.

The three inch pots and their flats are plastic, yes. We don't buy them intentionally; they show up -- mostly with nursery plants. I get about ten years out of them.

The tool shown here is a modified (bent) cheap trowel as recommended by Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm. It works very well. This one was lost in the garden three years ago, was recently turned up by the broadfork, and has been put back in service, none the worse for wear. Simplicity in tools, as with so many things, is its own reward.


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