Saturday, February 19, 2011

Now is the Time for Great Faith...

Adam has been asking me for the past few weeks WHEN am I going to start the peppers? Last year, on Memorial Day weekend, we purchased three pepper plants at the Burlington Vermont Farmers Market. The farmers told us that they started their peppers in early February! Talk about planning ahead - we were in northern Vermont last weekend and it's the most-wintry-feeling place I've been in years.

These pepper plants were outstanding - they were head-and-shoulders above all other pepper starts when we purchased them and took extremely well to transplanting. They produced an incredible number of peppers, starting in late June and continuing through first frost!

I ordered new plant seeds from Fedco, but they will not arrive until March. So I broke down and went to buy more seeds. Fortunately, most seeds store well for a couple years, but if you are interested in sharing seeds, do let me know.

Seeds are amazing - just look at these tiny parsley seeds superimposed on an illustration of what they will grow up to be. (You may want to click on the image below to see a larger version of the photo.)

Seeds consist of three components, each with a different purpose. The embryo is the plant-to-be, the endosperm is the food for the infant plant, and the seed coat is the packaging. Each is amazing in its own right:
  • The embryo will sit happily in a state of suspended animation for up to several years, only sparking back to life when conditions are right.
  • The endosperm, which makes up the bulk of the seed, has got just the right mix of food for the developing embryo to get it germinated and grown enough to start taking in its own nutrients from the soil.
  • The seed coat protects the embryo and endosperm through hot and cold, wet and dry, and in some species, will experience unscathed an exotic vacation through a bird or mammal's digestive system.

The size and variation of seeds among plant species is simply outstanding. In one seed tray, I planted seeds ranging in size from half an inch long (marigold seeds) to so tiny I couldn't separate them individually even with my fingernails (German chamomile). I keep thinking one day I will have to plant an avocado seed, just to see what an avocado tree looks like.

Similarly, the variation of germination requirements for garden plants can be quite fascinating. Columbine seeds like it cold before being planted (the technical term is cold-stratification), lettuce seeds require light to germinate and parsley seeds require a 24-hr soak prior to planting.

Now the seeds are sitting silently in their trays in the dark; since I did not plant lettuce, my seeds should not need light to germinate, just water and warm temperatures. Now is the time for patience.... and for faith in the miracle of seeds.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hearth and Home (and Garden) - Part One

My boss recently described me as "quite the homemaker." Aw shucks. I don't really consider myself a homemaker, since I do work a full-time professional job.

But then I got to thinking about it, when I was home washing a week's worth of pots and pans. I do make things at home to make our house and lifestyle more homey, so yeah, I guess that I am a homemaker.

The week's worth of pots and pans shows that I am not a great housekeeper, but I do try to make our house a home. I can take very very little credit for the interior decoration of the house, but I can take credit for much of the exterior of the house.

My main focus in cultivating a sense of "home" is through cultivating the garden. One of my favorite homey things is fresh-cut flowers and thriving houseplants. This past year, I did grow enough flowers, particularly black-eyed Susans, to have several weeks of bouquets. I'm hoping that in a few years, I will have a well-established cutting garden so that I can actually utilize all the vases I've accumulated under the sink. This year, I have ordered Flashback calendula and Selma Suns sunflowers to expand my floral choices.

The other favorite homey thing (this time of year) is my pantry. It has onions from Musterfield, potatoes from Spring Ledge, butternut and acorn squash from our garden, a sad handful of tiny shallots, and all my canned goods. It is immensely gratifying to "go shopping" in the garage for dinner. We have been eating canned peaches and pears lately, and they are just wonderful. I can't say that I grew most of the contents of the Mason jars on the shelves, but I was able to preserve foods made from the cucumbers, peppers, basil and tomatoes that we grew in our yard.