Thursday, March 27, 2008

Breathe deep

I caught my first whiff of soil on my way home last night. There's been enough snow meltage so that the ground has been visible for a couple weeks, but last night was the first time this year I've smelled earth - that marvelous, rich, intoxicating smell that's as alluring as chocolate.

And then today there was two inches of snow. More to come next week.

But community garden assignments are announced late next week. Knowing where I'll be will be awesome. I'm hoping for a corner of the fence, the better to create privacy and insta-trellises. I'm so not looking forward to the construction phase of trellising, especially since I want to create them strong enough to trellis my tomatoes and cucumbers and (maybe) winter squash. I haven't quite figured out how that will work, but apparently leaving indeterminate tomatoes on the ground (even clean straw) is Not Okay. I'm inclined to go with conventional wisdom on this one.

Of course the trellis I really want is expensive, difficult to haul, and impossible to store - my back-up plan is giant bamboo canes. Environmentally sustainable (and how) and sturdy, and even potentially pretty. Binding them together is an issue - I don't really believe that twine is going to cut it as a support. Zip ties? Wire? Nails? I think it would probably be best to avoid things I could get embedded in my flesh - I'm already accident-prone.

Until then, I will dream - and keeping smelling the dirt every now and then.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I've never liked poinsettia. Not ever. But while I can summon some appreciation for the normal colored varieties, these are wrong on some fundamental level. (Sorry, but it is.) Most wrong? The pale blue.
I'm not a big fan of weird concoctions in general, but these look especially freakish. Yes, Wisconsin can be boring in the winter. But that's no excuse for the cotton-candy leaf colors. Ewwww.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Counting Down

Gardeners in warmer climes are already planting, but we're in that frustrating cusp where spring is coming (really), but you know there's going to be a little more weather. To be precise, five more inches of winter arrived this weekend, covering the skeletons of icicles fallen off the roof. It looks all clean and pristine again. There is some leaves and mud visible, but not as much as I hoped. Then again, the icebergs punctuating the city where the plows dumped the majority of the snow have been briefly covered. (They're hideous, since they're layered with road filth and the markings of various dogs throughout the winter. Think of them as a grosser form of tree trunk - you can tell the history of the ice flow throughout the winter if you cut straight through it, with varying rings of filth and ice.)
Community gardens will release plot names April 5th. I'm assured everyone who applied to my garden got a piece, so I'm busy dreaming. I'm not sure about planting right now anyway, considering that the land is probably relatively clayey, and working clayey soil before it's ready is a bad idea. Also, it may be traditional to plant potatoes around St. Patrick's Day, but it's hard to envision them doing anything other than rotting right now. A slow, cold rot at that. Still, there's rows to mark, rototilling to feel angsty about, and what's going to go wrong if I plant a few rows of turnips and lettuce and they don't come up? It's not like I don't have thousands more seeds to plant later if they don't.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


This year, my emphasis is definitely on edibles. I realized last year that I had no idea what many of the plants I ate looked like. Tomatos and squash, yes. But recognizing turnip sprouts was an impossibility. And I'm pretty sure that I ate a few weeds while nibbling on my intentionally planted greens and pea shoots. (Note: Grazing is not a recommended practice unless you're gardening in organic and pesticide free spot.)

So the goal this year is to figure out what things look like. A secondary goal is to grow some things simply because they're pretty. And this guy here would be my official mascot. (Thanks,!) He is the caterpillar version of a black swallowtailed butterfly. The caterpillars eat fennel and wild carrots. The sites don't say anything about parsnips, which is too bad, because I'm planting many more parsnips than fennel.

So a few extra fennel plants are going in, just in case we do get some butterflies. Ironically, the black swallowtail is much more common in Arizona and New Mexico. I've never seen wild carrots or fennel in New Mexico, so I can't figure that one out, but maybe I was in the wrong backyard. Still, perhaps a few stragglers will make their way to Wisconsin.