Deb's Big Backyard

  Deb's Big Backyard

Gardener's Dilemma: Sow What Now?

by Deb Quantock McCarey

 

Looking out my office window into a backyard landscape that is still knee-deep in snow in March is a head wagger.

 

But supposedly, the big thaw is on its way, so there is that.

 

For the past three years, by the middle of March my indoor germinating of seeds has been well underway.  In our basement growing area, under lights, we would be fastidiously nurturing a variety of warm weather heirlooms in jiffy pots -- tomatoes, a range of colorful bell peppers, three varieties of eggplant, herbs blah, blah, blah --  right next to the red wriggler vermicomposting bin, where my super cool homemade fertilizer is created, harvested and stored.

 

Keeping a worm bin at home is good for so many reasons, and almost effortless...except for the every three months or so harvesting thingy, which for me is always a minor ordeal, but gratifying in result.

 

Not surprisingly, this year I am not going to start any seeds inside until after Easter.  And, none of those potentially gorgeous heirloom tomato vines, brandy wine and beefsteak varieties, mostly, will go into the ground this year in mid-May.

 

If I start them, let's say, in the third week of April, I am anticipating that they will be hardy enough to go into three self-watering containers (yes, I have totally caved in to this urban container gardening concept) by early to mid-June, when I hope it will finely be tomato weather...warm!

 

 

Why am I waiting?  Well, we did almost tirelessly battle too many garden pests last year, and with my backyard being the size of a postage stamp, rotating crops can be tricky.  My big idea is to change up the growing culture by going with self watering containers on wheels.  

 

I did have luck with that last year growing heirloom black cherry tomatoes in an Earth Box, in spite of all those garden pests -- each one of which I am already tired of, and they are not even here yet.  Blech.

 

 

In 2013, early in the growing season, we warded off clouds of aphids with a soapy water spray.

 

 
By June, the slugs were drowning (hopefully inebriated) in beer.
 
 
 
And, in July, the before and after pictures of the hornworm was gross, mostly because those wonderfully efficient parasitic wasps I was trying to attract into my yard as beneficial insects, came,  They laid eggs -- like in the movie Alien -- into the hornworm, and the babies ate their way out, desiccating it.
 

 

Enough of that.  What I can predict now is that as soon as the permafrost in my garden lifts, I will immediately sow some super hardy cool weather seeds -- lettuces, spinach, radishes,  beets, possibly in a cold frame, as I have a couple of old storm windows perfect for building one of those, just taking up space in the garage.

 

Still, very soon I will be taking a few short road trips to purchase seeds locally, because I like garden shops where I can get an in-the-moment thrill from walking those aisles of seed packets galore.

 

Next year, though, I hope to be part of a local seed swap, and of course, the West Cook Chapter of Wild Ones can help out with that.

 

For now, forget about me waiting around for spring to arrive.  I am going to go find some myself.

 

Kicking off on March 15 will be the 2014 Chicago Flower and Garden Show.  Then, showing up after that will be "The Secret Garden" at the upcoming Macy's Flower Show.  It runs from March 30 through April 13.  I am scheduled to be a volunteer docent twice.  My heart is already warming up just thinking about all those gorgeous blooms and sensational smells.

 

I guess I could go look for a crocus or two...if all that bloomin' snow would melt.

 

I'm banking on seeing one of those by the end of next week.  Hope does run eternal, ya know.

 

 

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