“What news? What news?” was often the cry when E. F. Benson’s delightfully pretentious Lucia met her neighbor Georgie coming across the Riseholm village green in “Queen Lucia,” the first of several books about the life in an English village before WWII.
When I return from Saturday morning rounds in my own rural village my husband always wants to know what news I bring home.
“What’s new?” is our inevitable query of neighbors at local gatherings.
The desire to be in the know, aware of the latest news and rumors, trends and fashions seems to be built into our genes. Right now, as we stand at the cusp of a new year, we gardeners are already being bombarded with catalogs promising the newest horticultural offerings, latest achievements in hybridizing and the dandiest new gadgets.
I’ve been doing a tiny survey to find out if any of the people I know make new year’s resolutions anymore. No one I asked admitted to doing such a thing, but several said they set themselves goals for the year, for their business, in their domestic life, and their social life. Some said they liked getting close to a goal – and then setting a new stretch goal. I think many gardeners will greet the new year with one or two new goals, and maybe even stretch a little further.
When I opened my Johnny’s catalog I was instantly launched into a suggested goal, “Create a season-long planting program (to) ensure a continuous supply, make efficient use of space and effectively schedule planting times.” That is a noble goal and one I set myself every year, but rarely manage to carry out to any great degree. This is a new year, however, and it is a goal I can commit to. Once again.
With all the talk about the eating local trend, and growing your own vegetables, even if you don’t own a piece of land, those with a deck might set a goal of learning to grow vegetables in containers. Cherry tomatoes are easy to grow in containers, and many lettuces can be harvested in the baby stage after only about 30 days. Renee’s Garden offers a new variety of zucchini that is suitable for container growing. Growing herbs in containers will save cooks a lot of money over the summer and fall. How much do you spend on parsley alone every season?
Every catalog will tout their new varieties. Johnny’s has a whole new vegetable for farmers that they are calling “Flower Sprouts,” a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale. The mildly flavored rosette-like sprouts the color of Red Russian kale grow on stalks like Brussels sprouts. I hope some of the local farms grow will grow this.
Some catalogs like the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) are offering newly available old varieties. Many hybrids are suitable for the home gardener because they have been bred for disease resistance, but many are also bred to ripen all at once and be less fragile, both qualities that are important for commercial growers whose crops have to be up to the rigors of long distance transportation, but not are not as concerned with flavor.
Mantilia from SSE is a new old butterhead that has won taste testing competitions and is “mild, tender and sweet.” I love butterhead lettuces.
Heirloom seeds also help keep the gene pool robust and abundantly diverse. We never know what stresses or changing conditions will arise, affecting plant growth and thus our food supply. Scientists cannot make useful hybrids if they don’t have a large healthy gene pool at their disposal.
Bluestone Perennials touts their new use of biodegradable pots on their catalog cover, along with 120 new items. Their new pots are made of coir, coconut husk fibers. These fibrous pots allow for better air exchange which fosters good root growth. Since these pots go directly into the soil, there is no transplant shock. Actually, these coir pots appeared last year and I can attest to the benefits.
Bluestone has many familiar and unusual flowers on offer. I remember when Echinacea, coneflower, came in a dusky pink or white, but now there are pinks, gold orange and green; some, like ‘Milkshake,’ have large shaggy centers and recurved petals.
Then there are always new projects. Sometimes that is a planting project like a blueberry patch. Sometimes it is a new structure from a trellis to hold cukes or melons, and sometimes a garden shed. My garden shed has changed my life. Now my tools and supplies are organized and accessible.
We are planning a new fence around the vegetable garden which includes a small raspberry and black raspberry patch. This past year I had as much trouble from rabbits as from deer, but we hope a new fence around the whole area will solve the problem. I am even hoping for a nice gate.
As the year turns, and you turn to your garden catalogs, what new things do you hope for in 2012? New plants? A new planting bed – ornamental or vegetal? Do you need a new tool – or a new tool sharpener? What new project are you considering?
Whatever new directions you take in your garden this year I wish you every success, and every pleasure. ###
Between the Rows December 31, 2011