Sunday, January 24, 2010

Planning the Summer Garden as El Niño Entertains

There's nothing like browsing through seed catalogs while a persistent, several-week-long series of exceptional storms pounds our hillside with heavy rains, high winds, lightning and now marble-sized hail. We were grateful the veggies didn't get destroyed, and the chickens are fine (just pissed off, confused and ready for spring). We've put away the Coleman camp stove and candles, still keeping some extra flashlights around.

Now it's still rainy but nothing too intimidating, but El Nino isn't done yet. The weather becomes the immovable force that immediately gets the most respect from a new gardener.

As we hibernate indoors, I've been flipping through seed catalogs, gardening books, notes and any credible information I can get my hands on before starting our first spring/summer garden. I dropped our orders for the season in the mail and started to map out where everything might go.

As usual, I'll probably have more seeds and starts (peppers, tomatoes and eggplant) than places to put them. I can't grow in the native soil and have a gopher problem, which means I can grow in raised beds with welded steel mesh stapled to the bottom (have four so far), individual wire mesh root guards, or containers. If it were easy, it wouldn't be all that interesting, right?

So anyway, here's what I've planned for next season (can't wait to make sauteed tomato and eggplant with garlic again!):

  1. Eggplant: Casper (ivory colored), Millionaire (purple, slender), Black King (large, round)
  2. Tomato: We get our tomato starts from this awesome local veggie & chicken farm in Ben Lomond: Love Apple Farm (hundreds of outstanding heirloom varieties, plus great classes on gardening, raising chickens, bee-keeping and other related endeavors)
  3. Pepper: sweet - Wonder Bell (red), Golden Star (yellow), Gourmet (orange), Italian Sweet (red), Mini Chocolate Bell; hot - Holy Mole, Mulato Isleno (perfect for chile relleno)
  4. Potato: Yukon Gold (2 1/2 lbs. of seed potatoes from Seed Savers Exchange)
  5. Herbs: Lemongrass, English Thyme, Stevia, Aroma 1 (basil), Santo Coriander, Cumin, Dukat (dill), Valerian
  6. Beans: Romano Purpiat (purple bush variety French beans)
  7. Cucumber: Orient Express (long, slender variety)
  8. Watermelon: New Queen (nearly seedless, with yellow-orange flesh)
  9. Squash: Tigress (zucchini), Fairy (winter), Butternut
  10. Corn: Stowell's Evergreen (sweet)

As the rain persists, I'm already thinking ahead to drier and sunnier days. Since I have virtually zero experience growing a summer garden (and the climate can be harsh up here, with heavy winds and drought conditions), it will be a truly humbling task.


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