Saturday, January 1, 2011

Alphalogically, Chronobetically

Last day of garden season 2010 and the weather in the upper Midwest is typically weird.  Ok.  Shouldn't really use the phrase "typically weird" since the two words almost cancel each other out and maybe an angel's wings disappear or something, but it's 50 degrees on New Year's Eve and all the snow is gone.  My little dog is happy to see grass again, and I am dismayed to have my garden indolence suddenly exposed to the neighbors.  Early December snow poetically covered all the fall clean-up that I hadn't done and buried the winter greens that I hoped to save for a few more weeks.

Planned to harvest this spinach for salads, but now I'm hoping that it survives the rest of the winter to produce seed.   

Maybe I can salvage this kohlrabi for seed too.

The high temperature tomorrow is forecast for 20 degrees which means that I can indulge in theoretical gardens and ignore the untidiness out back for awhile longer.
  I plan to write more often and consistently here about restoring order to garden chaos and have adapted two writing tools that should help to circle around my commitment issues and procrastination.

(I don't think that I have commitment issues, but others have suggested that I do.  I never really get around to procrastinating.)

As a big fan of everything classic and in the interests of not re-inventing the wheel, I first decided to begin alphabetical posts.  Very classic wheel-type tool.  But then I got muddled up in thinking that I wanted to write about seed catalogs which meant that I would begin the alphabet at the letter "S" or perhaps "C", because I wasn't ready to write about "A" things yet.  Pondering this, I wandered into the kitchen to make some tea, then sorted a bit of laundry and came back to check my email.  A couple of hours went by.  I walked the dog.  Watered the indoor plants. Checked on the tree seedlings.


Much later it occurred to me to begin chronological posts.  Some of my favorite garden books are written this way.  Here's a very good one; Michael Pollan recommends it if you don't want to take my word for it; note that you can order the Gardener's Bed Book for .01 cent plus postage from the used booksellers:

This is a gentle book, written by a gardener who has gone back to the Home Planet, and it would probably be nice to read it the way Richardson Wright wanted you short piece every night before bed.  I read my copy cover to cover on one snowy January afternoon and then had to look for something else to read.

So if I'd stuck with my initial plan to write alphabetically, I'm in the "B is for Book"" now and have still skipped "A".  Eleanor Perenyi wrote only one garden book-alphabetically-and it is almost the best ever:

Eleanor didn't have to write more than one; she gives you every bit of observation and advice that you're likely to need in "Green Thoughts: a Writer in the Garden".  She's fierce and opinionated and tremendous fun to argue with.

What with the commitment issues, procrastinating about procrastinating, and the idea that the winter isn't actually as long as we feel it is, I decided to post in 2011 alphalogically or chronobetically. So since we are in January and in "B's" here's one more book recommendation which could be the only how-to garden book that you will ever need:
Bernard Mc Mahon's American Gardener:  
adapted to the climates and the seasons of the United States,
(a complete account of all the work necessary to be done in the : kitchen garden, fruit garden, flower garden, orchard, pleasure ground, vineyard, nursery, greenhouse, outhouse and forcing frames for every month of the year with practical directions and a copious index.)

Whew.  Bernard's got everything in this book, chronologically organized to boss you around from January  to  harvest.  All the glossy magazines, Mother Earth News, P. Allen Smith, master gardeners across the country can't begin to cover what his book does, and they've all been leading us down the garden marketing  path because there's nothing new in the garden that Bernie wasn't already writing about in 1806.

He would disapprove of my leaving the spinach and kohlrabi to winter over in the garden.  I should have either transplanted them into my cold frames (which I haven't got) or uprooted, trimmed the plants and stored them layered in sand filled boxes in my root cellar (which I also haven't got) to await re-planting in March.  Instead, I am using the indolent gardener's method of trusting to luck and climate change in hopes of another Zone 6 winter.  (This worked last year; the kale overwintered and I gathered several ounces of seed for the next garden.)  It's now 205 years since "The American Gardener" was published and I may be able to update the concepts. 
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