Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Perfect Garden

World famous flavor! Supersweet! Rare heirloom! Heavy yield! Disease resistant! Gourmet treat!

Yes, like all you other gardeners out there, I've been reading the seed catalogs. Some of my attention has been on ornamentals since one of the landscape beds is in serious need of a revamp, but my true love is the veggie section. Beautiful, flawless asparagus, tomatoes, beans and beets. I swear, those catalogs are like flipping through a Victoria's Secret catalog, some of the merchandise is so darn sexy.

And the names invite, even demand experimentation:

Colossal Long Red Mangel (that's a beet, btw)
Bloody Butcher Corn (The Bloody Butcher heirloom tomatoes I used to grow were amazing -- surely the corn would be, too. Right?)
Red Peter Pepper (another heirloom, shaped like a ... well, you look it up if you're that curious)

The photos are enticing, but my favorite catalog has illustrations. Vegetables as art. It doesn't make sense, trusting a drawing rather than a photo. I think the real appeal for me is how old-fashioned the RH Shumway's pictures look, as if all the seeds come from a time before photography was used for such things.

Ready for the irony? I don't order seeds from catalogs, preferring to give my business to local nurseries whenever possible, or exchanging seeds with friends. And, after many failed experiments, I've learned to stick with the tried and true, with a few exceptions each year.

I can dream, though. At signings I'm often asked which of my home crafting mysteries I like the best. My answer is always, "The one I'm getting ready to work on next." And I mean it. After all, I haven't messed that one up yet by actually writing it. Actuality rarely lives up to the potential in our minds.

The picture at the top of this post is my kitchen garden around the first of July last year. There are raised beds at the other end of the yard, but this one is arranged more like an ornamental bed.

And this is my kitchen garden in mid-February.

But the garden in my imagination? It's perfect. No bugs, no blossom end rot, no leaf miners, lush loam soil, no weeds, precisely spaced, luxuriant and inviting. Ha!

What will you be planting come spring? Anyone have suggestions for a winter garden in Zone 4?(!)


  1. I live in zone 7 so no help with zone 4. I'm not real good with growing things, but I do love to try my hand at herbs. I've had some luck with them so each year I try a few new ones. I'm always looking for unusual herbs to go with the basic rosemary, sage, lavender and such. I love the fact that you don't buy from a catalog but from local nurseries. That says a lot.

  2. Sadly I don't even know what zone I'm in! This will only be my SECOND year gardening, so it's all experimentation. Fun though.

  3. Herbs are wonderful, Mason! So many different varieties, and always so tasty when fresh. But two years ago I very cleverly decided to plant borage. It went to seed and ever since it's been quite the battle to keep it under control. Pretty flowers, though. ; -)

  4. Good to see you in the blogosphere, Cricket! I'm like you, salivating over the seed catalogs. They sure make their plants look perfect in the pictures, don't they? Nary a blemish on the peppers or blossom end rot on the tomatoes. I can only garden in containers on my deck (too many critters around), but that doesn't stop me from trying!

  5. Autumn, I'd bet you're in zone 6. Happy experimenting!

  6. Thanks for dropping by, Alan! Containers are a great way to go -- you have a lot more control. The deer here will eat anything (including the bark off the trees), but the back yard is fenced so they're out of luck. The squirrels and racoons are another story...

  7. I used to love the tomatoes in Colorado - if you were further south near Durango I'd do some peppers as well. Surprisingly enough - you can grow some wonderous peas as well there. :D

  8. Tomatoes are so much easier to grow here than in the NW. Last year the peppers were huge -- and I harvested three dozen poblanos off two plants. Enough to keep us in chili rellenos for the winter! Not so much luck with the peas, though...

  9. Cricket -- did you build your raised beds yourself?

  10. We did build the raised beds, Patricia, and have one more to build before May. I'll post pics here when I get a chance.

  11. Ok, I've seen photos of your summer & winter garden, but somehow I imagined something different. Something is missing.
    Maybe it's the smell...