Our View: Sow, Sow, Sow a Row

Check out this letter to our readers from Group Editor Caitlin Wilson about planning for this year’s garden.

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by Caitlin Wilson

Doubtless many of you have already put seed in the ground for this year’s garden, and plenty more have tomatoes and peppers started on windowsills and in greenhouses. If you’re like me, you’ll have been organizing seed packets for weeks and poking sticks into the ground to mark future rows.

I often start my garden plan with the cold-hardy seeds I can direct-sow early on. I’m putting bush peas in where I grew a tiny stand of popcorn last year, to help replenish the nitrogen in that soil, and planning a row of climbing peas along the short, northern end of the garden. I go through a lot of greens, so this year, I’ll devote a block of the garden to a succession of spinach, collards, and lettuces. Garlic is already in the ground, and I’m determined to try cabbage again, with better protection against cabbage whites.

Eventually, all but the hardiest greens will succumb to our summer heat and humidity, so I’m considering adding Malabar spinach to the summer vegetable lineup. Last year’s pole beans did spectacularly well, despite being overcrowded; this year, I’ll space them better and give them taller poles to climb. I also discovered last year that 20 feet of okra is far too much of a good thing. I’ll be lucky if the freezer and canning shelves are empty of okra before this year’s harvest starts coming in. Half as much okra should be plenty, and will leave enough space for sturdier tomato cages and a few summer squashes. Because squash bugs and vine borers are common in my area, I leave the growing of winter squash to the professionals, and stock up at the farmers market.

Amid the vegetables, I’m planning to tuck the short-lived herbs I reach for most often — sage, parsley, dill, fennel, and basil. Rosemary and thyme are already well-established in my garden. I’m eager to try growing saffron, but I haven’t had much luck yet finding vendors of the bulbs.

I’m also looking forward to the first real harvest of fruit from the plants and shrubs I put in last year. The currants along the side of the house grew to about twice their original size last year; this year, I’ll start training the bushes on wires, much like training grapevines. Strawberries are running rampant through their bed, and bloomed well into last December. The two quinces will probably grow much better without constant pruning from rabbits, and I have my fingers firmly crossed for figs before frost. Last year, the plants started fruiting right as temperatures dipped below freezing at night.

I’d love to hear how you all organize your gardens, no matter how big or small. Write to me at CWilson@Grit.com, and your stories may just end up in the magazine. See you in May,

Caitlin Wilson, Group Editor, Rural Lifestyles, CWilson@Grit.com

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