Four seasons just aren’t enough. After Christmas has wandered past and the New Year Day bowl games are just a guilty memory of a day spent over eating, I enter a season known to gardeners everywhere. The calendar may say it’s still winter, but we know better. It’s the time of year when true gardeners begin to immerse themselves in seed catalogues and the pencil meets paper in a flurry of hopeful planning for the still-distant harvest. Time to take stock of seeds and tools and to dream of crisp peas and juicy tomatoes, of tender violet-podded green beans cooked with a slice of bacon, of lovely scalloped Patty Pan Squash, tiny and tender. We’ll jot some lists; have this, need that, and want something never tried before. Perhaps we have squirreled away some snapshots of last summer’s glory or even it’s “failures”. Hopefully, we can find the bookmarks and pins for the neat ideas we found along the way.
If you are like me, it requires quite a few relaxing hours of scheming to acquire the seeds and plants I newly desire and then some more to eke out new places for them to thrive. Last year, two sometimes lovely but more often tatty Butterfly Bushes were unceremoniously evicted to make way for more drenched-in-sun tomato beds. Never for a moment did I regret that decision! This year, I plan to add a small raised bed in a currently wasted sunny corner of the yard. There, I plan to grow a three sisters garden of Calico popcorn supporting Christmas Red Calico heirloom lima beans and underplanted with winter squash (something pumpkiny). Native Americans learned long ago that these three plants are mutually beneficial.
This will be the second year for my Purple Passion asparagus bed. Last year, it grudgingly shared space with an assortment of my grandma’s favorite umbrella-like summer squash plants but this year it will enjoy the more suitable companionship of trellised tomatoes, parsley and basil. Squash will be relocated.
I need tons of tomatoes for fresh eating, sauce and canning so they will be everywhere! I plan to try San Marzano for sauce and canning. I hope it does well. After I purchased the seed, I read somewhere that it does not do well in the Pacific Northwest but local seed producer, Territorial Seed Company sells three varieties so it seems it must do fine here. Matt’s Wild Cherry, is a highly prolific small red candy-like cherry on vines so perfect for trailing out of a container it will grace a galvanized tub planter this year.
One of my long-time favorites, always dependable and super delicious saladette sweetie Juane Flamme may not get the choicest sunny spot because it doesn’t need it as much as others to perform but it will definitely have a place or two or three. Pink Brandywine earns a spot again for a nice big, juicy slicer. Newbies for this season will include heirlooms Doctor Wyche and Ginny’s Purple, the seeds saved last year from fruit purchased from my local CSA. They ripened before any of mine and were tasty enough to merit a go in my garden. Lastly, I always include a rogue, Pineapple. Yes, Pineapple tomato. It often does not perform very well for me, but when it does, I so enjoy the flavor and beautiful color I give it a try every summer!
One last note on tomatoes. I wintersow in my unheated greenhouse late March (well before outside temperatures become warm enough to germinate here in Zone 8). When conditions are right, they magically awaken and grow. Last year, they far outperformed the couple of plants I bought on a whim. In this way, I don’t need to worry about damping off, legginess, or other issues that often arise when starting seeds in the house.
With that, I will leave you to consider your desires for your edible gardens this year. I have so much more to say but it needs not all be said now so until next time, dream with whimsy and wishes of a garden fit for your special realm…