Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Like Peeling an Onion, Without the Crying

The only way to really learn anything is to jump right in, get your hands dirty and make a lot of mistakes before you settle into a groove. Then of course, once you think you've got it figured out, the target shifts again and additional challenges arise. That's really what keeps life interesting, though, right?

It's like peeling an onion, since there's always another layer of complexity. But sometimes I learn something that's downright humbling, embarrassing even.

Earlier this week, at a winter gardening class taught by Cynthia Sandberg -- a.k.a. Love Apple Farm in Ben Lomond -- I learned among other things that "winter squash" is not grown in the winter. (I highly recommend Cynthia's gardening and backyard chicken classes, and eventually I'd like to take her beekeeping and tomato classes as well.)

If you already knew this, feel free to laugh. I should have listened to my mother-in-law, who suggested I plant my butternut squash in early summer (I started the seeds in mid to late July. You were right, Denice!). They got pulled up and fed to the chickens right after I got home, so at least they got eaten, and now I won't be wasting valuable time or resources.

And though I won't get that big crop of luscious, deep-orange butternuts for soups, curries and pies, Cynthia sent us each home with a flat (8 six-packs) of new veggies. I really got giddy when they started passing around the pack of purple cauliflower and onions, but here's the list, linking to randomly Googled images:

(1) Purple Cauliflower
(2) Pak Choi
(3) Butter Crunch Lettuce
(4) Leeks
(5) White Portugal Onion

I'm particularly stoked about the onions, and now I just have a lot more options for the garden as a whole. Plus, I'll use three Earth Boxes for garlic and shallots, just as soon as their summer tenants (tomato, eggplant, cucumber) have expired. So that's the plan at this point.

This weekend I'll direct-seed some more red and golden beets and do it in a way that will extend the harvest. Ditto for carrots, lettuce, spinach and kale. I also need to build some pieces of PVC piping into the insides of the beds, so I can bend smaller-gauge piping into hoops that support frost cloth or bird netting.

A few tiny beets are really taking to their home in Simmy's garden (in the picture above). She also has about eight shelling pea plants curling their wiry little bodies toward the tomato cage planted in the middle. She loved her eggplant again (this time served with spinach, garbanzo beans, cooked in a tomato sauce with lots of rich Indian spices and minced ginger).



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