Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dear Iris - published February 16, 2012

DEAR IRISGardener says keep ‘imagine’ list growing

It’s a new gardening year, and it brings the long-awaited mail delivery of garden catalogs! Wow, my favorite ones are here, full of new varieties in every category imaginable. Sure, I’ve been browsing on the World Wide Web since last fall, looking for a hard-to-find pumpkin variety, but there’s nothing like a hard copy in hand with surprises on each page!

Now, today, is the time to IMAGINE the whole growing year ahead. Let your mind run wild ... mine fast forwards from early spring crocus to late fall turnips and chrysanthmums. Beginning to end and all that’s in between! For the early vegetable garden, radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce, peas, beets, zucchini squash and cabbage can tolerate cold temperatures of soil and air. These start my garden list of needed seeds. I’m trying a new watermelon radish and Parisian globe carrot. Repeat plantings of these early vegetables can be made every couple of weeks if wanted and weather allows. Of course, I get some sweet corn planted as soon as my farming family, decides it’s time to plant field corn. Potatoes can be planted now, the old ritual of planting on Good Friday was always observed by my family. From the planting, to hilling and finally digging, we had a good crop of our favorite staple using the holy day date.

Add to the garden seed planting list, warm soil-temperature varieties. Green, wax, lima and horticulture beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, winter squash, longer varieties of sweet corn and my personal favorite — pumpkins.

Remember ... now is the time to IMAGINE. By the simple work of planting cucurbita varieties, the fall season will be filled with color, unusual shapes and textures in harvest settings. When the seed catalogs arrive, our grandkids pick out the kinds of pumpkins they want for decorating their porches and front yards! Some are warty, bumpy, white, deep ribbed, bright orange Cinderella’s, peanut and blue-gray. So many varieties to choose from.Oops, we almost forgot to order a regular jack-o-lantern! Gourds, Indian corn and maize join the group for fall decorating — just IMAGINE!

Sweet potato plants can be planted in late May. Plants can be purchased at nurseries, but are sometimes hard to find. I start my own in February by choosing the best looking sweet potato in the grocer’s produce department. Do a good scrubbing, slice a small section from an end, stick toothpicks in sides to hold it upright, then place in a jar of water. Soon roots and leaves will appear. These slips can be broken off and then rooted in water. After acclimating to outside temperatures, they can be directly planted in the garden.
Don’t forget the faithful, long-blooming plantings of zinnias and marigolds directly sown in the soil. No pampering needed, they work hard all summer for your pleasure.

Now, we are nearing the end of the growing season list of seed needs. Our long-time neighbor shared a saying about growing turnips: “Sow on July 29th, wet or dry.” It works. By now, any seeds can be planted again, depending on moisture and weather patterns. Fall gardens can be very successful. Hopefully you are busy by now canning and freezing all of the wonderful vegetables.

From beginning to end, the most rewarding time is watching it all grow! Whatever you grow, just IMAGINE ... and keep that never-ending list “down to earth.”

By GERRI LYON, Master Gardener intern

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