Friday, March 26, 2010

Mary, Mary Not at all Contrary, Where Will Your Garden Grow?

I really think this article will transform into a worksheet. I have been thinking about this particular article for a long time. My goal for it, for you, is to communicate a feeling or attitude. From the title you can assume that it is about gardening. It is - sort of. There are so many wonderful, professional how-to garden books “out there” that you don’t need me to tell you “how.” Therefore, that means we come back to the principles, heartfelt thoughts, and attitudes. If you have been reading any newspaper or current magazine, or listening to the news there seems to be a plethora (huge amount- I just liked the word :}) of information about gardens, seeds and gardening lately. Some even foretell a dreary horizon full of shortages of seed, to the point where it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in some areas. First and foremost, we need to focus on the WHY we should garden, have a garden or think about mud, weeds and really dirty knees and hands. It’s simple. If you happen to be a member of the LDS church, we have been counseled and admonished to garden – if we can. If that is not reason enough, then yes, focus on the headlines and that funny word “economy.”

I love the story, or faith promoting rumor, that is told of President N. Eldon Tanner regarding his “garden.” It is said that he wanted to follow the counsel given by the Prophet to have a garden. At the time he lived in an apartment complex. But he planted his “garden; tomato plants in containers that were kept on the balcony. He determined that those few plants cost a fortune in plant food, care, fertilizer, etc., in the percentage of produce that he was able to harvest. But he did what he was asked to do anyway.

The following areas of consideration are to help you think about what will work for you, in your circumstances. May I suggest that you weigh the news headlines against what has been counseled by our leaders. May I also suggest that if in doubt make it a matter of prayer. Remember one of Barbara’s mottos is that, “There is nothing too dumb to talk to the Lord about!" You can resolve the why, where and how!

Are you thinking of storing seeds? The rule of thumb that makes most sense is that you can/should save seeds to grow, not necessarily store, with the “food storage” mindset of having, but not using them!

You need to understand that you may store wheat (seed) for 30 years. That does not mean that the entire can or bucket of wheat will germinate and grow after 30 years. It means you can store it, and then grind it for flour or cooking. The longer a seed is stored the more the germination capability deteriorates. Gardeners in the past would save seed from a favorite vegetable or their crops in general, to plant the following year.

As you think of seed, how much and what kind, there are a few things to consider.
Where and what will your garden be? Are you going to attempt to “farm,” as in a huge plot of ground, such as a ¼ or ½ acre? Or will you be thinking about a “postage stamp” plot?
Even though the seeds may appear tiny, be sure that you properly guesstimate the space requirements of the adult plant.
What kind of “territory” do you have to deal with? Are you plants going to grow in the ground or in containers; in the yard or on the patio or deck?
How much and how many varieties can you plan on? Is some of your gardening going to start now and then continue with greens and smaller varieties indoors in order to have an economical or healthful advantage?
Is your garden going to be a hobby for “fun” – as in work- on weekends to grow enough for just salads and a ripe tomato or two? Or is it to provide a mainstay of produce for your household? Or are you looking at harvesting enough to can/bottle or freeze?

What about a “Garden in a #10 Can or similar packaging?
I’m sure you have seen them advertised. “All the seed you need for a full sized garden in a #10 size can.” Many times these are sold in “home storage” stores or catalogs, and lately in classified ads. The focus of the advertising could be that there is a seed shortage or this needs to be an integral part of your “home storage”.
You may want to take a second or third look at that kind of “seed package.”
First, how is a full sized garden defined? What kind of variety is there? How much of each kind of seed is there? Are most of the vegetables the kind that you and your family will readily eat? Do you have the space and ability to grow most of the vegetables in the package? How many are vine-type versus the bush type versus what other type? Is there a lot of corn or potatoes, etc. that require a lot of ground space? Weigh the packaged version against your circumstances. Can you do just as well, or maybe better, by planning on paper, making a list, checking it twice and then buying locally

Seed from your “crops” or plants:
In order to obtain seed from your own plants you must have the space to have some plants that you harvest to eat and then some of these you can use for the seed. In order to have seeds from your vegetables you need to grow old-fashioned regular vegetables, not hybrids.
Save seeds from one year to plant the next. Some vegetables, such as the onion family, take two years to produce seeds. Others you will need to allow the vegetable to mature in order to allow the plant to “go to seed,” such as lettuce.
The following ideas came from Larry Sagers, the Master Gardener of Deseret News and KSL radio.
“With peas and beans allow the pods to mature on the plants. Pull up the plants, usually in the morning, and put them inside a paper bag. The pods will split and the seeds fall into the bag.
Peppers should ripen on the plant. Cut them open and scrape the seeds onto newspaper to dry.”
I have always scraped the pulp with the seeds from tomatoes onto newspapers, allowed it to dry and then picked the seeds off.
Mr. Sagers suggests that you “pick and slice the mature fruit and squeeze out the seeds and juice into a plastic or glass jar. Let the pulp ferment and the seeds will sink. Pour off the liquid and wash remaining seed, then dry and store them like pepper seeds”.
Cucumbers, squash, melon and pumpkin seeds are all easy to save. Newspaper once again can be used to save and dry the seed.

Store bought?
Are you planning on saving store-bought seeds? Buy next year’s garden seeds this year, then keep them in containers with tight fitting lids such as gallon jars or number 10 cans, but not baggies or paper bags. Keep them as cool and dark as possible.

One more story – to encourage you.
While Larry attended BYU, we lived in a small rental house. We started a garden in the plot out back, but before it had a chance to produce, we had the opportunity to buy a little house around the corner. We jumped at the chance, but that meant having to leave our garden behind. Our daughter (who was eleven years old) insisted that the garden should “move with us.” We tried explaining that the plants would most likely die, but she was adamant and promised she would take extra good care of them. So we moved as much of the garden as we could – plant by plant.
For several months we could look out the back window and there she would be, sitting in the rows talking to the plants. Almost all of the plants lived – how would they dare to not! The morale of the story? Never give up on your gardening opportunities!

And you can always remember that I make sure I grow Chocolate mint and Chocolate peppers !