Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Planting the first seeds.

I welcomed the calendar start of spring Sunday by planting seeds for an early crop of cool weather vegetables. This being the deep South, it won't be cool for very long. (Truth be told, I threw on the A.C. for a few hours yesterday.)

Here's what went in, one seed at a time: Five Color Swiss Chard, gourmet baby greens, Early Wonder Beets, and Cherry Belle Radishes. I also planted about a dozen

kohlrabi seedings and thanks to my lovely plant markers (thanks Victoria!), I've marked all my rows.

I noticed lots of robins hopping all over the bed this morning. I'm hoping they are after worms and not seeds.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A miracle of nature.

I planted my Lenten roses six or seven years ago, and they truly do bloom in Memphis at the start of Lent. When the sun shines through their blossoms, they are so beautiful and delicate that I expect fairies to be dancing underneath. It's as close as I get to a springtime religious experience.

Unfortunately, my plants had never propagated, which is why I was

flabbergasted today to find all these lovely babies. "Why now?" I wondered while I weeded. And then it came to me. This fall, I finally got my yard man to leave the leaves in the flower beds. Usually, he blows them all out.

So there you have it: Lenten roses are woodland plants that need Mother Nature's blanket to keep up their good work.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My first trip to Lowe's.

Last weekend was beautiful (today was too!), and I couldn't resist the pull of a freshly stocked garden center. I stopped by Lowe's and bought top soil, basil, and flat-leaf parsley. The nice guy who

loaded the dirt in my car cautioned against planting the basil. "It's too early," he said. "Still too cold."

When I got home, I decided to ignore his advice. My chives made it through the winter, but were feeling lonely. So in went the basil and the parsley, making a perfect trio of herbs for my current retro food fav: quiche. I'm calling this planter the quiche pot, in honor of another favorite plant from the 70s.

PS: The cute little kale plant above also weathered the winter.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The good kind of breakdown.

When the cold kicked in after Thanksgiving, I pulled up my dead vegetable plants, layered on another layer of leaves and pine needles, and forgot about my vegetable garden.

Well, I didn't forget about it exactly, as I can see it out my kitchen window, but I took a break from gardening and focused on my house instead. God knows, my closets needed some attention.

On Sunday, I pulled out the pitch fork and turned the garden dirt, piling on a few bags of organic compost and garden soil, along with a cup or two of lime and some coffee grinds.

What I found was dirt so dark and rich and full of nutrients that big fat earthworms were wiggling about everywhere. Oh happy day!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A morning at Urban Farms.

On Friday night, I stopped by TJ Maxx and bought the last pair of rubber boots in the store. It’s a good thing. After volunteering Saturday at Urban Farms, my feet look like this.

I’ve been intrigued by Urban Farms since it started last summer, but until yesterday, I hadn’t joined in the effort to grow food for an underserved neighborhood in Memphis called Binghampton. The farm is tucked so tightly between affluent and forgotten that it doesn’t show up on Map Quest. But thanks to the

remarkable efforts of a handful of organizers and enthusiastic volunteers, three acres where cotton once grew is now a thriving and sustainable farm.

There are compost piles, a tank for tilapia (the water if filtered through watercress that is also sold to local restaurants), and lovely rows of cool weather crops like broccoli rabe, romaine, and red lettuce. Come summer, there will be much more produce, along with chickens, goats, and bee hives.

I spent most of my time Saturday rearranging drip hoses and planting kohlrabi. Others beat back the kudzu, sifted worm castings, or moved around compost with the farm’s tractor. A few blocks down Tillman Avenue, another group of volunteers helped to get the Urban Farms Market ready for a March 26 opening. Eventually, produce from the farm will help stock the market, bringing healthy and affordable food to people with few food choices.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Time to get busy.

Many gardeners use the frost date to kick things in gear, but for me, it's the day my Redbud trees bloom. When the grape hyacinths bloom on the same morning as the Redbuds, I know there are no more excuses. It's time to get dirty.