Sunday, March 21, 2010

Garden Blunders: Gardening Rule Number 1

Did I mention we're trying to grow some of our own food supply? If you're new to gardening, it's easier in theory than practice.

I bought these grey shallots last fall. I had dreams of planting and harvesting these treasures from my own front yard. Grey shallots have a light sweet taste and when sauteed in olive oil until browned they impart the best sweet and crispy tones and textures I've ever had. There isn't anything savory these grey shallots can't improve.

So who wouldn't want them growing right outside the kitchen door? I bought about three bags at the market from Liz and Michael at Grouse Mountain Farm in Chelan, and I carried them home to eat and plant. It was hard to ration the ones for eating.
This is a page from Elizabeth Schneider's Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini with shallots from the market. Grey shallots are the ones on the right and the more common shallots are on the left. These are also good, but the flavor of grey shallots is more satisfying and you don't need as many to flavor a dish.

Did I mention I'm new to gardening? I only bring this up because I started seriously planting more vegetables last summer. And last fall I put in beets and spinach and chard and I sowed a cover crop, but I'd neglected to tell Tom who was also working our front yard garden and when I was gone to the market, he planted the shallots, exactly where I'd sowed the cover crop.

"How was I supposed to know you'd planted anything there?" he'd said. And if that wasn't bad enough, he couldn't recall each shallots exact location. Would there be much point in digging them up? The lazy gardener's thought is: why not let them go and we'll just find them when they sprout up? This approach led to:

Gardening Rule Number One

Tho shalt keep a notebook about your garden. Drawings and details of where and what you've planted will come in handy and may even save your plants from horrible fates.

When the cover crop sprouted up, we spotted the problem like a bad debt on the horizon. The shallot tops looked exactly like the cover crop.

In late January we considered the possibility that the shallots weren't even there. That perhaps they'd been crowded out.

Here is how it looked a few weeks ago. Every week we kept hoped to spot the shallots. Finally Tom uncovered all the shallots last weekend by snip and taste.They were thin and tiny and fell over as if exhausted by rye grass. They looked like they needed a plant doctor. It's amazing they survived.

For anybody who says I think I'll grow a few things, gardening is more than sowing seeds and harvesting tons of vegetables. Perhaps each lesson this season will become a rule.

And speaking of rules, a second rule is coming because we'd no sooner transplanted our peas when hungry eager crows showed up. If we'd have gone off to work, we'd have missed the bird buffet. We raced out and covered the tiny plants with the plastic cover we had for the seedlings.

Time to get out the gardening books again.

What else can I expect after birds? And will our shallots ever recover?

Look close and you'll see our exhausted skinny grey shallots.

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