March 4, 2010
For weeks gardening catalogues have been stuffing our mailbox. I love these catalogues; they make me hopeful during the bleak days of winter when gray skies feel like a smothering blanket and snow piles up to my crunchy knees. I dog-ear the pages of the Territorial Seed book, pen and pad in hand, and spend evenings selecting varieties, ascertaining if the final list contains the correct tomato balance of red, yellow, black, orange, determinate and indeterminate, and growing days shorter than 80. Asking myself: Will two Japanese Black Trifele plants be enough?
Then I review all the other vegetable offerings, rolling around in my mouth the taste of Gypsy peppers vs. Black Knight.
Daryl, our neighbor two-doors down, has already begun his seedlings. We never see each other during cold months, but I know his tomatoes are snug in their grid of peat pots because at night I see the suffused glow of the his grow lights through the glass block basement window. A beacon leading me to research all my selections on-line, just to be sure. With his hydroponic growing system, Daryl makes me envious.
So do our friends Tina and Glenn”s spread west of Cleveland. Theirs is a 22-acre property, so big they have a lake. Not a pond, a lake. They grow organic cows, a breed called Scottish Highlander, which have long red hair.
Every year, Tina plants around 75 tomatoes, mostly Romas as she puts up sauce and salsa in late summer, and 200 plus pepper plants, 50 percent with heat levels listed in the upper section of the Scoville scale. She grows these from seed, in her greenhouse.
We have no room for either Daryl’s modest in-home system, or Tina’s ideal conditions. Could I be any greener with envy?
Our house is in an old inner-ring suburb, on a postage-stamp sized lot, narrow but long, and fairly useless for vegetable gardening. About 15 years ago, Bill built me two “farms” — 12 ft. long x 2.5 feet wide x 2 foot deep wooden boxes, filled with soil we amend yearly. These sit in the driveway behind our house, which doesn’t get as much sun as the front, particularly in the late afternoon. There’s no place else to put them. Along with the farms, peppers, some herbs, and determinate tomatoes grow in pots, including on the front porch last year, the first time. Rotating crops is impossible.
Last year, we harvested seven peppers and baskets of tomatoes from August into November. We felt like millionaires.