The lettuces I’m growing are Saragossa, a German summer crisp lettuce, and Forellenschluss, a German lettuce with red spots. Most of the seed was started in trays indoors, but I also started some in milk jugs outside, and those have the brightest colors and the strongest growth. I often wonder about the early life of the seeds that are sown, and how much the way they are grown will make a difference. Infancy is a mysterious time.
My parents are in Florida, and when I called to see how they were doing, they asked what I'd been up to. "Gardening. Mostly planting bare-root fruit shrubs and trees." "What did you plant?"
Until they asked this, I hadn't realized what a ridiculous, long list it was for a 1/3 acre lot. And this seems to happen every spring. We've been here three years, and every year I think, well, I planted a lot this spring, but now we're almost set. But then the net year, it seems like there's more room for fruit trees, not less. It's like living inside Mary Poppins' purse.
Some of this is creative (or maybe wishful) thinking. Last week I planted three hybrid plum trees- Toka, Lavina, and Purple Heart- in something like the Dave Wilson method: just a couple feet apart so that they'd stay small and keep each other company (Jens Jensen said plums are social trees and like to mingle). And I planted a couple pears- Cabot and Harrow Sweet- close to the house hoping to train them in a loose sort of espalier (or maybe as a two-leader? or an umbrella?). The idea is provide a bit of shade, fruit, and beauty while keeping things compact. We'll see.
All of these could be gardening mistakes, but I generally don't think mistakes should be avoided. In the garden, I'm not sure there's any other way to learn what you love and what love you (and your soil and birds and bugs...) back.
Of course, sometimes space really does open up for a garden. After a bad year of cedar apple rust, I took out the old juniper patch between our house any our neighbors'. I cut it down with some reluctance- I like juniper, and it always gives me pause to remove a healthy plant that's been in this neighborhood longer than I have. But now there's room in the sun for a hazel hedge.
Out with the old, in with the new. Happy spring.
These are the last of my Winter Luxury squash- the ones that took over the garden. I heard they didn't store well, so this week, I cut them open to roast and freeze. In retrospect, it would have been more interesting to save one whole in the basement and see what happens. One of the pumpkins was stringy and thrown out to the squirrels, who didn't seem interested. The other pumpkin cooked up in that dense, fudge-y way that made me love this squash.
I first picked Winter Luxury up from a farmer's market after moving back to Wisconsin. A month later, I found one on display at the local food coop, and an older shopper watched as I put it in my cart. I thought he must be a fellow enthusiast, but he came over and told me that he had grown that pumpkin. He picked it up out of my cart, and looked at it for a minute with real tenderness, like it was still his pumpkin, not mine or the store's.
This year I learned that, like me, Winter Luxury has a history in Wisconsin. The heirloom was introduced in 1893 in Philadelphia, but by the time I was born in the 1980's, the Jung Seed Company in Randolph was the only one maintaining the seed stock. I saved seeds from my best pumpkin this year- something I never bothered with before. The rest were roasted and eaten and there were plenty. Cinderella rode in a pumpkin, and there really is something magic about them. Plant one seed in a hill, and you get trailing vines, half a dozen pies, and several bowls of good snacking seeds.