By LYNNE IRONS
The other day on the radio, they were discussing the rising cost of rice and how it is affecting a great deal of the world’s people. In fact, many cultures eat rice at every meal. They blamed part of the problem, of course, on the price of oil needed to haul that rice around.
I was thinking about how we eat more rice than we should given that it doesn’t grow anywhere near New England. Many times in this column I have praised the much-maligned potato. I feel the need to do it again. Last year I was fortunate to harvest a few bushels from my old chicken yard. I gave them away, ate them in every possible way, and now have enough left over to plant another year’s crop. I think I can mash a couple more batches before getting the rest into the ground. They are getting a bit soft but are still absolutely delicious.
I amuse myself telling my readers all the things I plan to accomplish in the following week. Who am I kidding? Just when I take a moment to enjoy new buds, I look around and am hopelessly behind.
My asparagus made an appearance this week. One purple tip is above ground at least half an inch. I planted it from seed 15 years ago. I did the double-digging of a long trench, fertilized heavily with homemade compost, mulched with seaweed, and have been truly rewarded during the last decade for all the effort. Honestly, I don’t believe I have made it to the stove very many times. I just wipe it on my shirt and eat it on the run. I noticed a tiny bundle of organic asparagus for sale in a local market for $8. Your own can be grown in a flower bed as the fern, which comes after the stalks are picked, is lovely.
Gardening is all trial and error. I planted a bunch of crocuses on the north side of a shed years ago. They bloom a full three weeks later than their friends on the south side, thus stretching the season. Who knew? Don’t you love the masses of scilla blooming right now?
Avoid, at all costs, planting the following: bamboo, gooseneck loosestrife, and peach-leafed bellflower. You will rue the day you fail to follow this advice. I didn’t and now am devoting the weeding time that should be given to pulling mugwort. Bamboo cannot be pulled. It spreads underground and pops up everywhere, including the lawn. That reminds me, add ajuga to the list. It will travel across the lawn at an alarming rate.
I moved the huge pots of lettuce, kale, beets, chard and carrots outside. I had seeded them a couple of months prior right after the light had changed. Germination took some time but the added warmth of even an unheated greenhouse brought them all along nicely. I cannot encourage you enough to throw some plastic over something to stretch out the growing season.
Before my sons were old enough to bully into some carpentry favors, I used bales of hay stacked in an L-shape facing south. The plastic sheeting could be tucked around the makeshift structure and held down with rocks. It was then removed during the day. When the danger of frost was over, I used the hay for mulch. A bale of mulch hay is $4 but still beats the price of most other garden additives. It really adds the organic matter. To repeat Ruth Stout, “Hay is manure that has yet to go through the horse.”
I just re-read what I have written so far and realized that I mention price a few times. The economy has taken a turn that is noteworthy. If you do nothing else, get some tomatoes, peppers and eggplants into the flower garden. Nothing encourages me to grow my own more than a trip down the produce aisle. We are not just talking price here. When jars of fruit, say mandarin oranges, are “packed in the USA,” that is a euphemism for shipped in 50-gallon drums from China and put into jars here.
The Chinese have used so much pesticide that pollinators have been killed off. They pay people (children) pennies a day to hand-pollinate fruit. I have become so crazy about the morality of Chinese products that I take my reading glasses into the market for label-reading.
Thank you, Kristy Kingsbury, for lightening me up. My dog is also worried about the economy. Alpo is up to $3 a can. That is 21 dog dollars.