Thursday, June 12, 2008

Executive gardening decisions

(Farewell, finocchio- it's better this way. Really.)
Growing vegetables in containers, there are some hard and fast rules. There are the physical rules- use the right planting mix, feed them, never let the containers dry out, don’t plant short plants in the shade of tall plants, yadda yadda.
But, there are some less tangible rules, too- let’s call them psycho-practical.
The first rule: grow what you like to eat. Plain and simple.
The second rule: grow plants that keep on giving. Container gardeners don’t really have the luxury of succession planting. But by growing cut-and-come-again lettuce, and big leafy greens that can be clipped one or two leaves at a time, bush beans and zucchini that produce over a couple of months, and indeterminate tomatoes that keep on fruiting until they give up the ghost to first frost- it creates the illusion of succession harvesting. It makes for less work and more produce over a longer period of time.
I didn't follow the second rule to the letter this year. I planted four finocchio in a single self-watering container in April, and I ripped them out yesterday. I ran out of space and still had Alma Paprika peppers in large seedling pots, now root-bound from the recent heatwave. I fell in love the finocchio from the start; willowy and pale green... cool and feathery to the touch. And from the beginning, I knew it wasn't meant to be.
I chalk it up to January seed-catalogue seduction. When there is snow on the ground and the seed catalogues start arriving in the mail, and you find yourself alone in that warm, bright, perfect, garden-of-your-mind for days on end, reality is turned on its ear. In the mind-garden, practical matters are for pussies. You think of all your favorite cuisines, or that farmer’s market specialty vegetable you’d like to try and grow yourself, or ingredients you can’t find in any store, or plants you’d just like to experiment with. The seed list takes on a life of its own. It grows teeth and speaks in complete sentences.
Honestly? There’s no good way to stop the living, breathing seed list. You have to go with it. Go ahead and order whatever seeds your little heart desires. Don’t fight it. That’s what seed and plant exchanges are for, people. Just be prepared to tear that whimsical vegetable out if (ok, when) you need the space, on the day the real garden finally replaces the mind-garden. That day will arrive on or around the first scorcher of spring, when you’re itchy from trickles of sweat, you have dirt in places dirt shouldn't be, your back aches, your knees hurt, and you have a little sunburn stripe just above your gardening gloves. That real garden day always comes.


d. moll, said...

You are so right about the hard decisions and the seductive seed catalogs; beautiful photos, wonderful descriptions. I'll try one of every thing please. How else can you find what, other than the basics can work for you in your little micro climate?

Melissa said...

wow, you are tougher than I am! I practically killed several things because I felt too guilty to thin the seedlings. What a loser, huh?

Verde said...

Poor, dear, Finocchio. Off to dine with the Bunns no doubt?

I'm making notes for January - what I want to start and not pay exhorbinant prices for later on.

Rabbits' Guy said...

I gave up on the seed catalogues years ago .. I was seriously considering buying an iris (one iris korm) for $55 because it was so pretty!

Now I rummage through the seed racks at the local hardware in mid-March, and still wind up with too much stuff!

It's great to see you getting the boutiful harvests going now! I think i might have a blossom on the tomato plants. Very few of our fruits set ... too cold and wet for the bees to be out enough!

Potatos are doing great though!