Yeah, yeah, I have a few of the usual impulses towards self-improvement. I think I should run more, argue less, and try harder to enjoy every day. But compared to my gardening resolutions, these are pretty faint.
In the garden, I am motivated. In life…a little less.
So in 2011, I swear I will do the following:
1. Finally set up a passive solar greenhouse and never eat a supermarket vegetable again. I've been dithering about it for years. Where should it go? How big should it be? Do I have the money for it this month? Enough inertia. As the greatest advertising slogan of all time put it, "Just do it."
2. Grow up, admit which crops the baby rabbits like and employ chicken wire around them. I have a fence around my vegetable garden: a cedar picket fence that I paid for, with cage wire buried below that I took considerable pains to install, spending weeks on my belly in a ditch nailing staples into cross-rails. I don't like to think that such expense and trouble still isn't enough, but it isn't. Yes, my fence successfully deters groundhogs and deer. No, it does not keep out small rabbits, who will eat the following into non-existence: chard, snap beans of all kinds, soy beans, kohlrabi. In 2010, I had almost no pole beans, thanks to nibbling. I love pole beans. I only harvested kohlrabi because I caged it. So worth the trouble! So pretty, with its little purple bulbs! Sweet, tender, unique flavor when cut into small cubes in a soup! Next year…chicken wire cages everywhere!
3. To hell with baby carrots. It's time to admit that the really tasty ones are mature. I usually do two plantings of carrots and harvest them young. The spring crop tends to get eaten by my kids before the fall crop is even in the ground. This year, however, I must have planted more than the normal amount in spring and still had some of them into November. They were a revelation. They held perfectly well in the garden months after I would have said they were mature to the point of senescence. And, like parsnips, they sweetened up radically after a few frosts.
4. Plant way more onions from seed. Store more onions to stave off a winter depression brought on by supermarket produce. Anybody who cooks knows that there are ingredients and then there are ingredients. Even the humble onion–who would have thought–becomes a star when it is homegrown.
5. Get even more reckless than I already am. Snake gourds, jelly melons, chrysanthemum greens. They will be in my garden in 2011…that is, until they wake up, look around, and realize this is not India, Africa, or Japan, but just upstate New York, world capital of slush and vinyl siding. So what if most of them fail? No one ever went bankrupt trying a little patch of a new vegetable.
6. Grow up. Cage newly planted fruit trees against deer. There are few things in life I enjoy more than a tiny, sweet, maroon 'Seckel' pear. I have planted at least five 'Seckels' here in the country over the years. Not a one survives, all of them either browsed by deer or trampled by deer. Time to validate my feelings for 'Seckel,' order another, and protect it from the damned deer.
7. Plant fall-bearing raspberries. Lots. I planted summer-bearing a few years ago in the laziest possible way, sticking the canes into a long mound of compost I shoveled onto the lawn without even bothering to break up the sod. My lawn guy controls them by mowing around them. I never get around to pruning out the old canes or weeding in between them. How are they reacting to this mistreatment? By producing tons of berries so good that I find myself whiling away hours in July in my raspberry patch, just eating.
8. Kick the rhubarb out of the garden and make room for more 'Purple Passion' asparagus. I like rhubarb, but I now have a row of half a dozen giant rhubarbs and they are hogging much room. These are really toughed-assed plants. The previous owners had some planted in a spot that is now lawn and despite eight years of mowing over, I'll still see rhubarb knobs appearing in the early spring. I'll find some demi-wild spot for mine, and they will do just fine. Asparagus, on the other hand…I'm just not getting enough for a family of five, now that my youngest daughter has discovered this vegetable. If you have never tasted just-picked asparagus, you have never tasted asparagus. It is not the same if it sits in the refrigerator even overnight, let alone two weeks in the produce section of your Price Chopper.
9. Plant ground cherries. These are a tomatillo relative, with a papery skin like a tomatillo, but their flavor is sweet and fruity, not sharp and acidic. My older daughter Georgia, who loves fruit, asked me to buy a quart for her at a farm stand last summer and then ate the box in 10 minutes. I find tomatillos amazingly productive and easy. Any fruit that grows equally easily…must be planted!
10. Grow up and admit that without netting, there are no currants. I hate netting my bushes. Their tender growth really suffers when smashed into a plastic net cage. They're ugly netted. It's hard to reach the fruit. So I didn't net last year. And maybe I harvested a pound of fruit from 10 currant bushes. The birds? They made off with 50 pounds.
To sum up, in 2011, in the garden at least, I resolve to be more crazy and less lazy, to take a little more time to forestall the problems that I can foresee–while refusing to worry about the ones I can't.
I hope your resolutions are equally unserious! And happy New Year to all!