We have been blessed with a few more temperate weekends recently, but we know that this favor will be quickly rescinded. Enjoy it while you can!
The community garden is fleshing out nicely with many spring offerings – we see more and more corn planted and tomatoes are everywhere. Sue is enamored with the thought of growing corn now, and something tells me that she will find a way to sneak a few stalks of corn into our crowded plots when I am not looking. There are more herbs in the garden this season; parsley, basil, oregano and one enormous sage bush.
Monday, April 11
Our Savoy cabbage plants are certainly flourishing – they are the flagship vegetables in our plot right now, compared to everything else we are attempting to grow. When will they be ready to pick? One is finally taking on the inverted-leaves-balled-up-into-a-cabbage look. The others appear to be just a few days behind…this is exciting! Patience is key, though, as we constantly compare our crops to the veggie seed packet picture.
Sadly, except for the Savoy cabbage, our vegetables don’t always look like their Photoshopped, spray-painted picture counterparts. Equally as pathetic, we still have an issue with lost markers and mysterious unidentifiable plants. Yes, patience is key.
Attention all gardeners: A restaurant-industry magazine reports that there are new trends afoot in the culinary world. World-renowned chefs are converting garden vegetables into main entrees - and calling them…steaks! Well, it was bound to happen. Chefs must have felt a type of culinary ennui or tedium in serving Portobello mushrooms as the standard go-to grilled meat substitute. But no longer! Word is out that parsnips, cauliflower and carrots are the new meat choices, and progressive chefs are coaxing others to braise, grill, and roast these new-fangled veggie steaks.
I don’t know about you, but I‘m having a hard time wrapping my brain around parsnip filets, barbequed carrot ribs or a big ol’ slab of cauliflower rib-eye steak.
What does this mean? Will community gardens everywhere evolve into veggie ranches? Will we rustle our produce herds, wear ten-gallon hats and brand our plants? Will garden gnomes don chaps? Perhaps not. But at the very least, we should collectively raise our garden hose lassos in a salute to culinary ingenuity. Yeah, I sort of like the idea of growing steaks. But someone really needs to plant a grill in the community garden.
Tuesday, April 12
Our monthly garden meeting is held outdoors tonight and coincidentally right after a big rainstorm. This makes it look as if everyone has conscientiously watered their garden. Our plants glisten and look greener - even the weeds are perky. A hearty thanks, goes out to fellow gardener Ed, who weatherproofed our community garden picnic table, just in the nick of time!
We are 20 strong this evening and discussion soon turns to the pests that are starting to make appearances in the warmer weather. Reports of red ants, white flies and caterpillars are mentioned. Once they show up, they tend to migrate to all plots – like those friendly migrating termites in the historic district of Sanford. Using either soapy water or grits has done the job of eliminating some pests in the past. As far as the caterpillars, we’ve heard that you just pick them off as you see them.
According to master gardener and author Jerry Baker, the color yellow is a great white fly repellent. He suggests hanging a few yellow cardboard strips slathered in Vaseline next to your tomatoes and peppers. Jerry also recommends a mixture of Vaseline and bacon drippings as an additional DIY bug-repellent option…yeah, now we’re talkin’!
Wednesday, April 13
The collards are still growing strong and robust. They are the majestic oak trees in our disheveled vegetable kingdom and actually provide a bit of shade for nearby plants. Maybe we will keep a few collard plants and plant the more fragile quinoa underneath. They seem to be a bit heat-shy and may prefer a few hours of shade.
Some gardening communities around the country are promoting an interesting idea. It’s called, “Plant a Row for the Hungry” program. Those who have the space or find themselves with excess produce can donate their fresh food surplus to others who may need it.
A mighty fine idea – especially since I have been giving away epic amounts of collards as of late. It seems wrong on all levels to let them go to waste. Maybe we will place a call to our local county agricultural extension office and see if any such program exists near us. Any ideas on this subject, feel free to contact us and we will pursue it.
Thursday, April 14
I pull out all the salad mix in the plot, which has taken to bolting as of late. We are behind in sowing a new batch of salad to take its place. And I need to remind Sue that we have to discuss where to plant those daunting pumpkin plants. They are already sprouting a good half-dozen buds – that will be enough Hummer-sized pumpkins to crowd out all the cars in a used dealership lot. Oh my!
By the way, Seminole pumpkins are a pear-shaped variety, and are native to Florida. Some say they are the easiest vegetable you’ll ever grow! Few insects are interested in them. And a big bonus: this variety thrives in our summer gardens! They are named after Florida’s Seminole Indians, who planted pumpkin seeds at the base of trees, allowing the vines to grow up the trunk so that the ripened pumpkins would dangle from the tree branches and be harvested with ease. Once harvested, pumpkins were cut into strips and sun dried. The Seminoles made fried pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup with their harvest.
As for me, the idea of endless homemade pumpkin pies from my garden is a very satisfying thought. Once you taste a Seminole pumpkin, they say, you will forever eschew any other variety, as their taste is superb. We’ve been told that several local gardening farms and stores carry these Seminole pumpkin seeds, for those of you who want to try and grow this variety.
Friday, April 15
Another busy weekend is ahead of us, both in and out of the garden. It seems we are always behind in something related to the garden. Nonetheless, Sue and I plan to welcome pumpkins, quinoa, tomatoes and corn into our constantly evolving spring garden circus.
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.