You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well you might find,
You get what you need
~ The Rolling Stones
Spring is here and well underway. In fact, we've had several weeks that felt like full blown summer. We've been busy in the garden and landscaping. We've enjoyed daffodils and asparagus. The peas are growing wildly. Tim has removed 22 dead or dying ash trees, cut them up, burned the tops, pulled the stumps and graded the meadow. I've edged and mulched the first half of the landscaping. Yup. We've been busy.
|It was a banner year for daffodils|
Spring is the time of year when you begin to see what your gardening year is going to shape up like. The first surprise is finding out what did or did not winter well. Surprise, the Hollyhock which had been thriving and reseeding itself for several years under the dryer vent decided to die off. As did three Mums, two Veronica and a Butterfly Bush. Sometimes there is an easy explanation and sometimes not. As compensation, one clump of oriental Poppies has tripled in size (and now needs to be moved), another Bachelor Button decided to volunteer in a perfect spot, and all the finicky shade loving refugees that I put behind the mulch bunker are thriving in their preferred habitat. There are trade-offs in this hobby.
|The Hollyhock in better days|
Whether your dream garden is a cottage garden full of Hollyhocks, Lupines and antique Rose varieties, bushels of perfect tomatoes or neat and orderly rows of alternating red and green lettuces you are bound to suffer a disappointment now and then. You just never know what its going to be ahead of time. Ten years into my gardening career, I've learned not to take this too hard. There's probably next year. And a gal can get tired of eating eggplant anyway.
I start most of my own vegetables myself, especially the ones that are fussy and require the longest head start. I buy replacements for what fails. I've gotten to know what I can replace and what needs a special effort if I am going to enjoy it this season. This year my lettuce was a flop, but the Alaska Nasturtium took off like mad. Go figure. Either one of those is fairly easy to replace if you know where to look and get an early start on your shopping list.
|My rule is you can never have too much Alaska Nasturtium. It adds color to the predominately green pallet of my vegetable garden and it's a great edible garnish for salads too.|
I've gotten lazy about tomatoes. I no longer start the first of April with a "grow op" in the dining room, heat mats, lights on timers, and fans. It's just too much bother. Instead I start them the first of May in the cold frame and forget about them.
|My Jap tomato transplant Memorial Day 2012|
When planting time comes they are just putting out their first true leaves and can barely see over the soil line, but not to worry. They catch up surprisingly fast. They won't set any records for early ripening dates, but I make sure to buy one regular sized transplant to hold me over. Last year it was the Paul Robeson.
My best and favorite source for fancy tomato varieties is my friend Mickey. She has similar growing tastes and operates a small and personalized little greenhouse (yes, just one greenhouse) where she starts her own plants for her own garden and produce stand, and sells the extra to the public. Also, she will sell you just one of anything, and at about a quarter of the price the large nurseries charge. She is the one who turned me on to the Paul Robeson, the Giant Pear paste tomato, and Ichiban eggplants. In return I give her some seeds I think she would like such as the Barlow Japs and the Absinthe.
|A mouth wateringly delicious Absinthe|
This year I started the Japs (must supply the family), the yellow Dr. Wyche, black Paul Robeson and the green Absinthe. These are my absolute favorites and represent most of the color wheel. I was particularly looking forward to the Absinthes. All of them came up, except for the Absinthe. How frustrating! I could probably replace a yellow or black tomato, and the Brandywine, especially the pink strain, is a suitable substitute for the Barlow Jap and available almost everywhere now. But where in the world am I going to find another green tomato plant commercially?
My last stop in my greenhouse run is usually Mickey's. By coincidence, I landed there just as my mother was leaving with several flats of tomatoes and other vegetables including a cherry tomato variety she had supplied Mickey with seeds and had her custom grow. I found Mickey's list of tomato varieties in it's usual spot by a pole and began to look for a replacement variety, something new and unusual that I can fall in love with. Right at the top, second in line was Absinthe. "Absinthe! You have Absinthe! Do you have any left?"
"Sure. This is the first year I saved seeds from the ones you gave me." Mickey casually produces a pair of scissors and dives into a flat of Absinthe. "Do you prefer tall or stocky?" Like magic she removed a beautiful, stocky eight inch plant from the flat and handed it over to me. It was like Christmas morning! I almost jumped up and down with glee. I could barely concentrate as I asked her for a Sungold, two egg plants (one long Asian variety, and a standard) and some short and stocky basil plants.
I paid her my $2.50 (yes $2.50. That's 50 cents a plant) and left with my treasures thanking her profusely and declaring my undying devotion. At home I carefully watered and placed the new arrivals in the cold frame where they will give my plants something to look up to for another week while we wait for this cold snap to pass. I sorted through my empty pots of disappointment and dumped the dirt back in the bin, counting and organizing cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and tomatoes. Now the question remains. Do I have enough tomato plants or should I go back to Mickey's now that I've regained my senses and pick up another fun variety, or two, I remember seeing on her list.
The gardening season has begun and the survivors and I are soldiering on. No, in gardening, as in life, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need