GARDEN GOURMET-- December 2008
It may be a spell before we start turning big
clods into little ones, but as my back porch thermometer rocks on 20 degrees
there are a few things to be done to make the plot more “grow-prone” when
the sun turns northward.
That, incidentally, will be a reality a few winks
before Christmas Day. And, thereafter, things go downhill until the seeds
like radishes, peas, early tomato plants are in the soil and ready to do
And don’t forget the Irish potatoes, which
traditionally should be in the ground by Good Friday. That is April 10
Actually, I can’t remember ever getting my potato
seeds in the ground in March, but if a calendar quirk placed the Holy days
that early, my dad, who grew up to 20 bushels per year was a stickler on
this belief. More over, most of the dyed-n-the-wool gardeners of Southern
Indiana were firm believers in this bit of old wives’ tales.
In reality, the common old spud that played such
an important role in family dramas of the early days, is pretty reliable
and an easy thing to grow. . If you can’t make the deadline, don’t fret
. . . plant . . . plant when you can.
In some parts of the country -- especially those
with moderate winters -- spuds are planted in the fall (or even winter)
for spring crops. This, incidentally, accounts for those tasty little marbles
we find in markets and grocery stores well before anyone is sunburned.
Potatoes are one of the few cultivars on the American
garden scene that is not planted from seed or plants. Instead, they are
seeded by potatoes (what else?) themselves, sliced into eyelets, which
grow as plants. My dad used to render at least a bushel of seed potatoes
into seeds for several plants. Each eye was the seed for a productive plant.
I placed the seeds (eye up) about a foot apart,
and I must confess the last pail of seeds was a welcome sight. We planted
the seeds about four inches deep, placed each seed . . . not a drop. They
were hilled up when they were six inches out of the earth . . . or smaller.
At late summer harvest time, my dad would split
the take into two equal groups. Half went under the house for use until
the arrival of the New Year. The other half was buried below the frost
line for storage. When the first half became exhausted, the second half
would grace our table until depleted.
It was no wonder that the garden has ruled supreme
in family life of poor folks.
-- The winter (cold) months (right now) are the to apply fertilizers .
. . if you are going to take that route to (hopefully) great veggies come
the growing season.
Frankly, I am not a great advocate of fertilizing,
but a dose of horse or cow manure can do wonders for the quality of veggies
. . . especially the root types.
I have asked several farmers and gardeners about
preferences -- cow or horse manure? The nod seems to go to that of
the equine, but bovine is good, I am told, and either works wonders.
I tried cow manure between rows of established
plants a couple of years ago and the results (while totally unscientific)
were remarkable in both the fertilized plants and the fruits they produced.
The manure was worked into the soil about six inches from the plants and
about one inch deep.
I have concluded that to use either horse or cow
droppings it is well to apply it in fall or winter and to at least disc-mix
it into the soil in late winter or early spring. I think the disc
puts the manure in the soil at a better depth than plowing.
If I have by druthers between horse, cow or chickens,
I will opt for the cackle every time. I base my preference on a situation
my dad had with a chicken coop.
When he opted to turn a chicken area into a garden
plot he looked forward to planting the coop because it had been subjected
to chicken droppings for several years. To make a long and successful story
short, my dad found a rich, black, loamy soil that produced veggies like
In the absence of chicken coops in this modern
day of gardening, if one goes without testing the soil to determine needs,
there are a number of all-purpose fertilizers in garden shops, and most
produce well . . . or make you think they do. A lot of 12-12-12 is sold
One facet of fertilization of any plant revolves
around the theory that fertilizer has been suspected of growing tremendous
plants that produce only fair crops. The theory goes that the fertilizer
is used for plant growth at the expense of the final product. Beats me,
but I observed a similar scenario with wild strawberries a few years back.
I knew of a great patch of good berries so I fertilized
it when the season was over (early summer). Next year the plants were big
and healthy -- a decided improvement. But the berries seemed smaller, though
sweet and juicy as before.
PUMPKIN CREAM PIE
-- Through trial and error, I have learned that the procedure for substituting
paw-paw pulp for pumpkin in a cream pie is every bit as good as the pumpkin
pie I tried earlier. Next up will be persimmon, then applesauce then some
hybrids. There may be minor changes in seasonings and spices.
The recipe will be found under heading of “wild
recipes” on www.bayoubill.com.