I’ve been holding back on planting, waiting to see what kind of moisture we’re going to receive before winter’s end. Will there be more rain, or will we continue with drought conditions and have to work around restrictions that make gardening nearly impossible?
Suddenly, reality strikes. Life is too short to ignore the seasons. I’m too set in my ways to give up digging in the earth. I refuse to be deprived of the delight of picking a few leaves of greens for a salad and to abstain from tasting the tang of homegrown tomatoes. I cannot silence the cheers of grandchildren as they arrive, disembark and scuttle off, anticipating succulent berries ripening on vines. Drought or not, I’m going to have a few things in my garden that I can nurture, tease and cajole into ripening — fresh food that’ll add flavor to our favorite dishes.
It’s time to “start up” an early garden that can survive on minimum supplemental water through late spring and early summer. Decide what you want to plant. Greens that grow well in our cool climate are chard, kale, arugula, snow peas (need support) and lettuce. Carrots, beets, broccoli and onions make crispy additions to salads. Squash does well if you have the space. Parsley, cilantro, strawberries and thyme are winners. Tomatoes can be grown in Cambria if we have a warm summer and you have a sunny location.
Your “startup” garden can be planted in wine barrels, pots on a deck, among your perennials or in a small plot of land about 12 by 12 feet. Begin by buying a few bags of good compost. Dig it into your plot to a depth of 1 foot the first year, then 4 feet each following year. Use an organic planting mix if you are planting in pots.
From the above suggestions, make your menu and buy seed packets. Follow directions on the packets. Remember, one seed makes one plant. Don’t throw out those leftover seeds; they are normally good for a few years.
There are no vegetables that I know of that are “deer proof,” so some kind of protection is essential. If your soil is enriched with compost, you may not need to fertilize the first year. Seeds will need to be kept moist when first planted and when young; then edible plants need water several times a week.
If you use nonpotable water, be sure you wash food before eating.
I wish I could tell you to ignore growing edibles this coming year and just go to the Farmers Market for vegetables. But like most gardeners who are optimists at heart, I encourage you to “get up and grow.”
Have faith that you can provide water for a small and efficient “startup garden.”
Tip of the month
Cilantro enhances dishes that have a Mexican, Thai, Chinese or Indian influence. Sometimes you need a few sprigs for a recipe. It’s easy to grow the international herb, and when growing in your garden, it’s conveniently at hand.
The cilantro plant yields two distinct flavors, one from the fresh cilantro leaves and one from the spice coriander, its dried seed. Sow seeds about a half-inch deep and 3 inches apart. Cilantro grows better from seeds than as a transplant.
For a continuous supply, plant seeds every few weeks from March to June.