By Ginger Macrander
I know that I wasn’t just me who thought that winter was taking its sweet time going away. The rain and cold continued through March, and even sneaked into April. Then, Spring slowly started appearing. Shrubs were budding, tulips and daffodils appeared, followed closely by azaleas and other early blooming rhododendrons, candytuft and heather.
Of course, this Spring has its challenges unlike any previous Spring I can remember. Typically, we would be planning our late May trip to London for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. We probably would have made a trip or be planning trips to see our daughters and their families in Denver and Austin. But this year, all trips are off (at least for the time being) and we are staying at home only venturing out carefully and cautiously for the occasional fresh vegetable or fruit or to replenish the ever-dwindling wine supply.
For the past several years, I delayed any seed planting and other garden tasks, knowing that we were going to be away for a good portion of May. This year, my husband and I cleaned out the greenhouse, so, I had no excuse to not start sowing some seeds. I saved many seeds from my own plants from last year including a variety of lettuces, basil, borage, kale and flowers such as cosmos, hollyhocks and marigolds. Last year’s late start yellow zucchini ‘s bountiful harvest encouraged me to try additional squashes this season.
So, right after we returned from Hawaii in March, I started with 3 varieties of squash including a new yellow zucchini variety, regular green zucchini and yellow long-neck squash. The next seeds to go in were the basil and lettuces. We can’t seem to ever have enough of either of these, so I planted quite a few. About a week ago, I planted a whole tray of different varieties of kale, including Tuscan (lacinato), smooth green, Scotch blue curled and Red Russian. I also planted a few green beans (from an old earlier try at beans) and a few of a special bean called “rattlesnake” beans. Rattlesnake beans are variety of pole beans that get their name from their brown speckled seeds, and are known for their purple striped pods. These are special to me as they literally came from my Mother’s garden in Birmingham, Alabama.
Lettuces and kale are among the easiest things to grow here in the PNW. For the past several years, I have kept two 2 foot long planter boxes of different types of leaf lettuces. Last year was the first time I collected seeds from two of my favorites, a light green curly leaf variety and a spotted leaf one. Each year, including this one, I started with young plants from Wilco. I have learned that these lettuces bolt (produce flowers) quickly if you don’t harvest individual leaves regularly, so it is good to have replacement plants, when the first round goes to seed. I should have plenty of new lettuces ready when the time comes!
We have also grown kale on our back deck in pots, and have had enough to give away. I have always started from seed, and always have a great germination rate. All varieties are easy to grow! The green smooth leaf that I planted last week sprouted in less than a week, and the Tuscan is just starting to come up. I should also add that none of these seeds were newly purchased this year, but were left over from previous year’s plantings. I have a set Tuscan kale plants from last Fall that are still growing. I hope to get seeds from these soon! Kale is one of those plants that can actually be grown almost year-round with a little care.
I want to close this post with a quote from the journal pages of the Portland Edible Gardens website (http://www.portlandediblegardens.com/blog) as it expresses better that I can the way I feel about gardening this Spring:
“And so the cycle continues. We tend our vegetable garden, whatever the weather. We plant seeds in times of abundance, and in times of scarcity. Our garden’s gifts are too many to name and more generous than we could ever know… Life is eager, coursing, yearning, all around us, and through us. Even now. Even here.”