Our plants come out from under the bedsheets this weekend. Everything looks relatively good.
Since the garden is holding its own, we make a pilgrimage to our neighborhood seed supplier. The goal is to purchase a few seed trays for spring seed planting. While Sue searches for seed trays, I check out the latest gardening tools and am quickly taken in by a new Miracle Gro Liquafeed product, with a state-of-the-art spray nozzle. The product’s claim, “Grows plants twice as big!” seals the deal for me. Yes! Here is a sure-fire way to salvage my reputation in the eyes of the discerning garden gnomes. That’s right, Gnomeo, who’s your daddy now?
“Look!” I say to Sue, placing my prize find into the cart, “this stuff will give us twice the garden yield and has three control patterns; shower, jet and flat!” Sue stares back at me with quasi-contempt and shakes her head no. “Those are Chem-i-cals!” she replies, emphasizing each syllable. “But our plants NEED these nutrients,” I plead, while staring at the multi-pattern sprayer and locking trigger. “What about nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium? Our soil must be suffering and our yield will not yield without this!”
Sue reminds me that our layers of peat moss, manure. grass clippings and mulch all contain nutrients and do an adequate job replenishing the soil. It’s obvious to me that she will not budge on this one. So we agree to disagree – for now – and I reluctantly place the prized Liquafeed spray bottle back onto the display rack.
Monday, Jan. 17
Torrential downpours prevail. Who wants to step outside for any reason in this type of weather? I bet no one is visiting the garden today. Better just to pull out the seed catalogues and start thinking about spring gardening.
Tuesday, Jan. 18
Spring Seed Fever is upon us!
I come home with green pepper and squash seeds – an impulse purchase from the hardware store. Glossy seed catalogues and yesterday’s bad weather are to blame for my lack of self control. Sue, in turn, comes home with impulse purchases of her own. Her seed selections are organic, and in her eyes, far superior to those I have purchased. Since we are trying to keep the plots chemical-free, she lobbies for her batch of seeds to be used this spring. Lucky for us, my father-in-law is not as fussy as his daughter, so he will inherit my hardware store seeds.
Truth be told, I am intrigued by her purchases. The “Carnival Blend Carrots” feature a frame-worthy picture of orange, red, purple, white and yellow carrots. It even states, “Dare to be Different” on the front and promises “a colorful surprise in the garden and on the table.” I hope that means they are edible, too. The back of the package reports that “colored carrots are unique but not new. Grown and eaten in Asia and Europe 1,000 years ago, they are becoming available again…”
Another seed package proclaims that “old-fashioned, heirloom beets are back…in a rainbow of jewel-tone colors.” That’s nice, but… where are the tomato seeds, Sue? Never mind. Leave that to me, then. Two failed tomato crops will not deter me from trying again in the spring.
Sue also bought quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) seeds. The package promises “striking colors of hot pink, yellow and white and green.” Interestingly enough, we just listened to an NPR (National Public Radio) program about the growing popularity of this ancient Peruvian super-grain. Quinoa is cooked like rice (2 cups water/1 cup grain) and has a nutty, tasty flavor we like. It is said to offer up as much protein as milk! Working under our new gardening motto, “Dare to be Different,” I think it will be a fun experiment to try and produce a small crop of carbohydrates in our garden plot. Only we will have to act fast. This Inca grain has been successfully grown in South Florida, but only in the winter.
Yes, these potential spring garden seeds are almost as exciting as the Miracle Gro Liquafeed jet spray!
It becomes apparent to me that adding color to the spring garden is a priority for Sue. With all this additional color in the garden, we’ll definitely need to keep our sunglasses on to weed and water, no matter what time of day. For those of you who want an excuse to buy new shades, Sue found all these seeds at the Chamberlin’s Health Food store in Oviedo.
Wednesday, Jan. 19
What a nice day, with outdoor temps close to 80! A quick run to the community garden allows us to enjoy this great, spring-like weather. We harvest salad, radishes and collards to accompany tonight’s grilled chicken.
Thursday, Jan. 20
Another nice day! Now this is Florida gardening weather at its best!
We take a closer look at what our fellow gardeners are growing in their plots. Plot #13 has a crop of giant cabbage, which lends credence to the myth that babies can be found in cabbage patches. In a small corner of the same plot, pea vines are weaving themselves skyward, via a wooden teepee. Their white blossoms are just now unfolding. Very nice! In contrast, plot #7 offers an impressive amount of cascading strawberries while plot #41 has recently planted sweet corn and cukes.
There is a monster-sized cauliflower in plot #5. It is truly a vegetable of epic proportions, and could easily have been a stunt-double for the Ball Drop at the Times Square New Years Eve festivities.
Elsewhere, plot #49 is chock-full of carrots, collards, green onions and flowers. These gardeners have done an impressive job of using every inch of their garden space. The purple cabbage plants from plot #44 are still as flamboyant as last week, but have been surpassed by some form of lettuce growing next to it. I mistakenly reported them as cabbage last week, but they now appear to be more like clusters of giant lettuce leaves – so large and smooth, they could be used to sit on, in place of those finger-flaying burlap sacks, for a trip down a Super slide. I’m curious: What type of mutant lettuce could this be and where can I buy the seeds?
Considering the recent freezes, I would say the gardens are doing quite well. Wonder what everyone will be planting for the spring?
Friday, Jan. 21
We are happy with our plot’s humble progress this month. The tiny cauliflower and Brussels sprouts plants are off to a good start. Same with the small, red- stemmed beets. Our celery still resembles clusters of “Lilliputian” celery. We have yet to thin them out. As far as newly planted seeds, we are just now seeing a few sprouts of spinach, salad mix, and possibly more celery, poking out of the soil.
The mystery plants are growing well, but remain a mystery. I continue to study its leaves and compare them to everything else growing in the garden. Sadly, I do not see a match – yet.
The radishes, collards and second-generation salad mix are being consumed almost daily. I like that we have plants in different stages of growth. The garden is constantly evolving!
This is the diary of Sue and Pete Owens about Sanford’s first community garden at 18th Street Park. They can be contacted at email@example.com.