It’s time, once again, for me to squeeze too many seedlings into my vegetable garden. Every year I swear I will use some restraint, but it seems to be pathological. Who can blame me? The gardening season is deceptively brief and this year it looks like it will either never begin or skip right to full scale summer.
And so I started copious amounts of seed and gave into some impulse buying. I can forgive myself that. The question I keep coming back to is “Why am I planting so many vegetables I rarely eat?” I like beets and kohlrabi and collards, but to paraphrase Jane Austin, With some pleasures, a little goes a long way.
I find this all the more baffling, since I really do have limited space. Most gardeners over plant. It’s an occupational hazard. There are a few, like my father, with the discipline to measure and allot the required space around each minuscule seedling. I always thought that was wasteful. Shouldn’t you tuck a quick growing lettuce under that pepper plant? The pepper is only going to sit there for a month or so, biding its time until things heat up. I can’t be expected to do the same, can I? I’ll harvest the lettuce long before it becomes competition for the pepper.
I’ve visited many, many gardens and I’ve seen few that were ideally laid out. I remember being impressed that the tomato plants in designer Bunny Williams’ garden were generously spaced… which tells me it was the exception. If there is one vegetable gardeners will wedge in wherever they can, it’s tomatoes. There has to be a way to get just one more plant in. It would be unfair to offer so many varieties and then restrict a garden to 4 or 5… or 12, right?
Most vegetable gardens I see are somewhat haphazard. Self-sowers have been given carte blanche and the pea plant or broccoli raab that still has a few days of harvest left… even though it looks like it is struggling to hang on… are interspersed with the newly staked tomatoes. The later it is in the season, the more helter-skelter the plan.
But back to my original question, do you eat all that you grow? Do you venture out to the garden with your morning coffee and design a dinner menu around what is ready to pluck? Pretty much every garden blogger I read seems to do that. Well… at least on weekends. I must make a note to give that a try.
I am very thankful for my freezer, when the vegetable garden shifts into high gear. I do a little canning, but the quick convenience of the freezer is just too tempting. Even when canning tomato sauce, I wait until the end of the season… when the heat has dissipated and the last tomatoes are ripened… to pull the entire season’s worth of plump fruits out of the freezer and start the canning process.
It’s easy to stash things like tomatoes, peppers, and beans in jars or bags, for later use. But what do you do when the sight of another turnip just doesn’t conjure up visions of dinner? There is always Plant a Row for the Hungry, but I like to plant something they might love, like carrots. I think the only thing for me to do is to step away from the seed racks and show some control. We’ll see.