Fri 9 Sep 2011
Part one – my mini-harvest
I have been hinting all summer about how poor a gardener I am and that my plans to have a great big vegetable garden this summer has been a bust. Part of my “experiment” of taking over my parents’ rural New Hampshire home for the summer was to have a big garden.
Much of last winter and early spring in the build up to my big move north, I spent a lot time (and money) buying seeds, pots, soil and other garden supplies. I was going to spend my first several weeks in the house growing plants from seed and then transplanting them outside once the fear of frost was gone – which by the way is early June in this part of the state.
The first part of the plan worked out perfectly. I spent days starting seeds and nursing them in trays I had laid out all over the house. I tended to the seedlings with great care while I worked on cleaning up the house and making it my new home.
By the time Memorial Day came, I had a forest of seedlings, which had now been put out on the protected back screen porch. I was so excited the day I saw posted in town that the frost warnings have been lifted and it was now safe to plant outside.
I had spent several days tilling a large tract of fertile land. This was extremely difficult for a boy who had sat behind a desk for his whole career prior to this little sabbatical. However, I enjoyed the thrill of working with my hands outside and was bursting with anticipation of a summer full of nature’s bounty.
I got an early start on the day I planned to transfer my plants outside. I carefully carried the dozens of trays of plants to the freshly tilled garden and started the careful transfer into the ground. I spent the whole day doing this, stopping only to eat a quick lunch and use the restroom.
By dusk, I had transplanted hundreds of seedlings into several neat rows and it looked great. I planted zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant – I was trying a little bit of everything. I watered the garden, took a step back and looked over my work. I was tired, but proud of myself. Seeing all those plants that I grew from seed, all lined up like little soldiers, made me very pleased and satisfied that all the time I spent on the garden to this point was well worth it. I slept really well that night and couldn’t wait to get out in the morning to see how well my little babies survived the night.
As I approached the garden the next morning it became clear that something horrible had happened over night. I couldn’t see any of the little green plants I had left the night before. All that was there were little stumps that had clearly been chomped off by someone or some thing. Literally, the seedlings, some which had been 5 inches tall or higher, were chopped down to an inch – complete with tell-tale teeth marks. My first thought was the groundhog I had seen in the yard all spring (right). I loved watching this little guy lounging in the yard and was always happy to see him. Now I wanted to boil him for dinner.
Well, as upset as I was, I set to saving as many of the plants as I could. I immediately decided to move to a container garden, something I had in the past. I set up a series of containers on the open part of the back porch with some of the less chomped plants, a few plants that I had not transferred yet, and a handful of new seeds.
I figured I could protect the container garden a little better and it worked out pretty well. Although my yield is not nearly what I had planned, I am very pleased that I have had some good growth. Thankfully there are plenty of farm stands and farmers’ markets in the country where I can get the bounty I was unable to grow on my own.
Anyway, this is a long introduction to the purpose of my post today – my mini-harvest. I am headed off for a week’s vacation (to Wellfleet on Cape Cod) and I wanted to bring some of my own herbs to use in cooking.
One of my best crops is basil (right) – which is great as I love basil and making my own pesto. I clipped a nice batch of my basil and I am excited out using it in a few vacation dishes. I also have a nice crop of scallions, so I snipped a bunch of those to bring as well.
Both my basil and scallions have great flavor, much more than anything I have ever purchased at the grocery store.
I have to tell you, all the work I did on my garden will be well worth it when some of that basil ends up sprinkled on some fresh goat cheese and ripe tomatoes while watching the sun set over Wellfleet Harbor.