Jan 26, 2010

Gardening in New England in January.

Almost every morning when I was a kid and I woke up in the morning I could never find my mom in the house she was always out in the yard. She loves to garden. I remember having to weed a row of something before I could have fun with my friends. I have no doubt I received my love of being in the yard from my parents. They were both always outside. Of course as a kid I did not think it was so great that I had to mow the lawn and weed and move rocks but now I realize my fondest memories are of being outside laying on my stomach in the rows of peas eating as fast as I could hoping my mom did not see me, or feeling the relief that little plant must feel as I cleared all the weeds from around it.

The house we rented when we were first married in Provo, Utah luckily had a garden spot that had already been used for many years. We got permission to plant in it and that was pretty much all we had to do. The ground was amazing and the weeds were few. When Zach was a baby he used to sit in that garden and eat the tops off of the onions while I worked. I really did not know much about gardening other than plant, water, weed. I really did not know that there was anymore too it.

Then we moved to Princeton, New Jersey and another apartment. This one had no garden spot just a small square by the front door that I could fill with whatever I wanted. Knowing what I know now I would go back and fill it with veggies but at the time I thought the space was too small and instead filled it with flowers. Now I know that too small of a space is no excuse.

In Kansas we had a very hilly yard with lots of trees providing unwanted shade. I planted veggies around the foundation of the house where I could find sun but the story was again, not much space. A kind lady in the ward offered me a space in her yard and I tried to make that work but it never really did. I was not as dedicated as I should have been to loading kids in the car and driving to my garden.

By the time we left Kansas I was determined that we would have a house with a garden spot with full sun and lots of space. I vetoed a lot of houses because of their lack of a appropriate garden spot. The house we finally ended up with in Indiana had four acres with not one single tree on it. It was amazing. We picked a spot on top of a hill for the garden. It was beautiful. I could see forever in every direction. I would often look up from my work and just admire my view. I loved that garden. The soil was perfect. Water never pooled where it shouldn't. There was full sun on every inch of it. I even had a raspberry patch and a strawberry patch and dill that came back every year and multiplied like crazy. I learned a lot in my Indiana garden. I learned which way to plant asparagus. I could not figure out why it was not growing and it just so happened my Master Gardener mom was in town and she checked out the scene and announced that I had planted the asparagus upside down. One of my prouder moments :) I learned that I did not like to use straw as a mulch for my garden. I learned about adding fertilizer to the garden. I learned what tomato worms were...very nasty critters. My husband learned that when you add ashes from the fire pit to your wife's garden you should make sure the nails are all out of the ashes. I was very sad to leave that garden when we had to leave Indiana.

When we were house hunting in Massachusetts it was very difficult to find a flat yard with full sun...not to mention the other things you need in a house when you have seven kids. But thankfully we found something suitable.

This Massachusetts gardening is the most challenging yet. How did the Pilgrims and early settlers in New England ever eat? I keep reminding myself it must be possible because there are so many roadside stands selling veggies here in the summer. Can I tell you how discouraged I was that first spring when I stuck my shovel into the dirt in my yard and there were rocks everywhere? I could not believe it. I kept pulling bucket after bucket of rocks out of my yard. Then came the disease, the pests and the strangest dirt I had ever seen. I have yet to have a successful tomato crop here. But I am gaining lots of useful information about fighting disease and pests and rocks. Things I never knew back in my cushy gardening days. I have never planted seeds before and not had the appropriate item come up. I figured that was just a given...if you have dirt, water and sun it should come up , right? Not in Massachusetts. You need to supplement the soil, you need to have warm soil, you need to read books to your soil, you have to comb your hair before you soil sees you:) Welcome to Zone 5.

Yesterday I spent the day poring over seed catalogs. This year I made sure to only look at seed catalogs from companies based in New England. Hoping they have seeds that are going to be thrilled to be here in my rocky, acidic soil. I looked carefully for disease resistant seeds, seeds that have been treated so they can be planted in cold, wet ground and be oh so happy.

I made lists of words that I have never had to care about before...determinate, hybrid, open pollinated, untreated seed, indeterminate and looked them up. I made a list of what I want to grow this year. I made lists of how deep every seed wants to be planted to make it's little dreams come true. I made lists of banks to rob to fund my list of seed. I made lists of people to thank when I receive an Academy award for my garden :)

I am determined this year. Information is power. I have read up on diseases and how to catch them early and prevent them. I have read up on how the most efficient and unethical way to murder slugs.....yes, I hate them. I have my arguments ready for the naysayers. I have a map drawn of where everything will be planted. I am researching tomato support and trying to decide what will be best.

I am trying to be patient I have been known to put seeds in the ground too early. And with all the snow that has currently melted it is doubly hard to resist.....no I won't plant in January in New England....I have learned a little :)


C Tam said...

And my excuse has been that we move too frequently--5 times in the past 3 years! But I think I really will do bucket gardens on my deck this year. It seems to get nice sun. What advice can you give me on bucket gardening?

Kristy said...

Thank goodness. When I saw your title, I was a little worried it was time to start gardening. You know I know nothing about gardening. Whew.