11.07.2010

The Winter Vegetable Garden & The Flower Grower's Confessions

I don't know if this is a hopeless undertaking, but I am tearing my garden apart in order to plant......vegetables. I haven't grown anything that might be construed as a vegetable for many years now.
Raspberries, strawberries & herbs comprise the majority of my edible harvest each year (unless, like my 5 yr old, you count the sour grass....and I don't.)

Even though I graduated from a renowned institution dedicated to turning out organic farmers by the bushel, I've gravitated towards ornamentals. I don't know why, I've never been able to do things by the book, if they are training people for organic food production, I have to grow flowers & perennials instead. Ask my mom, it's always been this way.

But, I've been talking to some veg growers recently, and it's made me think more about this vegetable thing. In general, I like vegetables-there are even some of which I can't get enough; but I've never wanted to grow them personally. Over the years, I've blamed our garden's orientation to the sun (partial sun at best), our soil's tilth (poor & sandy), our climate (prone to drought). Also mixed up in that was an indignation at the higher cost of keeping a vegetable patch (fertilizers, etc) versus the low-maintenance life of most perennials. But I now realize that at the bottom of it all is fear.
Yes, I've been afraid  of growing vegetables.

Nope, nothing to do with The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Or
Auf der Jagd nach dem Riesenkaninchen, as we sometimes like to call it.

What I have  been afraid of, though, is putting in all that time and effort, only to reap the harvest of weak, spindly slug fodder. It felt hopeless.
People who walk through life breezily offering their surplus of vegetables from the garden, or casually mentioning that they've spent the day canning this season's harvest secretly astound me. How do they do that?
I think I stick safely to my perennial flowers & herbs largely because they offer me a lot of return for very little input. Then again, maybe I'm just lazy.
Anyway, all that is changed now. I had a carpe diem moment a few months ago and subsequently have decided to transplant out all my perennials in my two sunniest beds and give the garden almost entirely over to growing vegetables. We'll see how it goes.
The Alchemy of Motherhood & Gardens
I'm a little behind with it, it's been hard to align the planets in order to get out there in the garden to work.
This is the alchemical formula I've come up with:
1 child in school 
+ 1 child's nap 
+ 1 clean house 
+ no one 'just dropping by'
+no rain
Add essence of no current exciting books to read,  and that equals approximately 1 morning spent in the garden. Which is sort of like making gold, and the elixir of life, rolled up together, if you think about it. I've spent most mornings gingerly digging up the lupines, clematis, verbascums, roses, flowering quince, lemon verbena, and all the other little straggly plants that need to move house in order to make way for the veggies. After that is removing the massive amounts of roots left behind (sorry!), amending the beds (lotsa lotsa compost) and then planting out.
Love Apple Farm
I spent the day over at Love Apple Farm yesterday, getting a refresher course on planting the winter garden. A beautiful property, off Highway 17 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The morning view was staggering, looking out over the coast redwoods, watching the marine layer drift through the canopy of the adjacent scrub oaks. One of the things I love about visiting small organic farms is the way they are offset by the surrounding countryside, and how they seem to sort of stitch their way into the landscape.  Farm dogs wound their way around our little class, woofing and flopping and managing very politely not to walk on the beds.
I came away with a lot of information and some fine veggie starts-including a cheddar cauliflower of which I am prodigiously curious. For all its beauty and fecundity and good growing practices, Love Apple Farm is biodynamic, a practice derived from Rudolph Steiner in the 1920's. I almost want to call it a belief system. It's too complicated to get into, that will be for another post, if I can be bothered. All I will say is that I am not much of a fan.
But what I am a fan of, is the winter veggie garden. Kolhrabi, leeks, kale, cauliflower, water cress,broccoli, rapini, mizuna, arugula, cabbage-I want to grow it all! And if the rain lets up (and the children nap, etc) we just might have some veggies on our hands in a couple of months. I'll let you know!

6 comments:

Love Apple Farm said...

Hi Rosa. Thanks so much for coming out to the farm for our class. I enjoyed having you as a student. And yes, our view is amazing. I appreciate it every day. In the meantime, good luck with your vegetable garden, and keep me apprised of your progress! Should your readers want some pics of our view, they can go to www.GrowBetterVeggies.com

Blessed said...

Ah, it all sounds so great. Maybe you will inspire me! I really, truly want to have a vegetable garden, but also don't think it will work here on our property--I will be very interested in hearing how it all works out for you!

(And we can stop by and distract you from gardening any time! ; ) Maybe when G is feeling better?

rosa said...

Hello Love Apple! Thanks for visiting rosa-sinensis, and thank you again for an outstanding day in your gardens, I learned so much!
And thanks for being so gracious when I landed in your beet bed! Good thing they were root crops!

Anonymous said...

I want to photograph your garden.

rosa said...

Hey Anon! I am a terrible photographer, even of things which stand still, like gardens. This is definitely a skill I wish I possessed, especially when I talk about my garden-I end up using a very large pile of descriptors to make up for it!

rosa said...

Oh-Lisa!
Yes, please do stop by! We miss you & yours.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.