February 19, 2006

Sunday, February 20, 2006

Time to Start the Garden...

While the sun today is strong and bright, there's no question but what this is a mid-winter morning in Maine, one with temperatures in the low teens, accompanied by piercingly frigid winds. It's a perfect day to spread out a gadzillion seed catalogs, to pore over garden notes from last year, just the right day to enjoy a fragrant fire in the fireplace while planning for the coming summer's most perfect pumkins, the most glorious gladiolas, the most tempting tomatoes and the lovliest lisianthus!

It's probably the same at your house... Tons of seed catalogs arrive in our mailbox each winter, starting in early December with the reliable old standards and continuing until April, including catalogs that range from narrowly focused, to folksy and informative, to well, just plain strange! For our short season here on the coast of Maine, I rely on Vesey's, Johnny's, Pinetree, a local seed store and Green Mountain Transplants, which deals in seedlings of all sorts rather than seeds. I do a lot of seed-saving from the previous year, and of course there are many plants, especially flowers and herbs, that can be counted on to self-seed, although some such ambrosia, lemon balm and chamomile a little too invasively.

Where to start, where to start! Well, it's easy to go through the veggies alphabetically choosing this bush green bean, a great carrot-shaped slicing beet, and at least three or four kinds of cucumbers for eating and pickling. We'll get several varieties of both summer and winter squash including a new Japanese variety we grew last year, and have loved both for keeping quality and for its deep orange, dry, rich flesh.

The flowers will be more challenging as the photos are all gorgeous, and the write-ups all so enticing, but sadly, the blooms are often disappointing. One flower that I have come to consider a backbone plant is lisianthus, commonly substituted for roses in florist's bouquets. Although I have grown some from seed, they require a very long season for full blooming, so for the past four or five years, I've gotten transplants from Green Mtn. Transplants (which is now actually located here in Maine).

Ahhh, but this day is just for the first read-through of catalogs, the first sketchy ideas of what this year's garden will look like, that first check of budget realitites... Hmmmm, those climbing roses are gorgeous, that new broom corn very intriguing, those unusual gourds really would make great birdhouses (in spite of the fact that we have a trash barrel full of dried birdhouse gourds downstairs)...

In the next few blog posting, I focus on selecting specific varieties for specific purposes. We'll also look at hay-bale planting which is a lot of fun and very practical. But in the meantime, can't you just smell the summer savory, the basil, the sweet peas, the heavenly heliotrope...

It's exactly ONE month from tomorrow until the first day of spring, ONE month of lengthening days, strengthening sun, and... dreaming!


1 comment:

Judy said...

I've had to cut back on my garden size as I just can't manage - or even eat - what I used to. I hope you'll talk about the minaiature vegetables and the patio vegetables as I've started growing both and find they really fill a niche.

I really enjoy your blog.