It’s that time of year again! Warmer weather is around the corner, and starting some indoor veggies is a good project to begin while you wait for the snow to melt. The above picture is from one of my five raised garden beds from a couple of years ago, totaling 150 sq. feet. That year I tried “square foot gardening” and it was a lot of work! I had a great variety of stuff growing though, from onions and tomatoes to pumpkins and green beans. At the time, I was spending a good 3 hours a day commuting to work in Boston. It left little time to take care of the beds, so I’m figuring this year I’ll have a lot more time to devote to making sure the 30% of the veggies I lost that year doesn’t happen!
Gardening…err, “Farming” as I like to call it as it sounds way manlier, has grown in popularity in recent years with the “younger folk”. As economic times worsen, the practicality of growing your own food is being re-discovered again. Community gardens are everywhere now, and it’s no longer just a “thing that grandma does”. If you want to dedicate some time and space to it, you can grow a lot of unique vegetables that can’t be found locally, or are expensive to purchase. www.rareseeds.com is where I order all of my seeds. They are non-GMO heirloom seeds, and the magazine they provide will overwhelm you with options. The tomato section alone will shock you with all the varieties you’ve never seen or heard of before, so it’s fun to experiment.
I took the farming to a whole new level after the raised beds went up. I planted tobacco! It’s an old American favorite, and goes great alongside the corn and pumpkins. I contemplated wheat or cotton, but that would just be going overboard. Or would it?? The picture to the right are three bags of cured tobacco from my 2011 harvest. This is specifically cigar tobacco, and requires special care in harvesting, drying, and curing. It gets better with age, and right now it has a nice dense “sweet” smell when you open a bag. I’ll roll a few cigars this summer and see how they turn out!
Growing cigar tobacco was a fun project, but I won’t do it again. Premium cigars from the Dominican Republic took decades to perfect, and I can get one for $6-$10. Some people have created ingenious curing devices that accelerates the curing process, sometimes as simple as an old fridge with a heater and vent added, compacting years of natural curing into months, allowing it to be smoked in a much more reasonable time. But, time being what it is, I’ll focus on more edible and healthy plants this year.
For those who like to plan, there is a useful tool over at http://www.growveg.com. It’s a program that easily lets you create an outline of your garden, where each vegetable is located, when it was planted, etc. The most useful tool they offer, to me anyway, is after you “plant” all your vegetables in your planner, you can see all the planting/harvesting guidelines for your zone where it’ll tell you which month to plant what, and when to harvest. It’s helpful for obsessive people like me who plan and plot and devise and scheme. Gonna maximize you, vegetables!!!
My 4-year old daughter Mia has always loved the garden. She helps plant seeds, water, weed, and eats fresh green beans like french fries.
Probably within the next week or so I’ll break out my 2 foot grow lamp and get vegetables like tomatoes started so I can hit the ground running after the last frost hits (about late April for East Providence). I still hate that I say I “garden”, and feel like I need some kind of tractor or donkey outside to “rough up” what would be consider’s grandma’s domain (no offense to grandma’s!).
It’s also about time to do some fishin’! I went around in RI for the first time a couple years ago and caught and filleted some trout, and grilled them on the BBQ. Good stuff! I’m not too crazy about catching stock trout though, but that seems to be what we get out here. They’re all the same size and are as dumb as bricks, so I could probably catch a few using a piece of candy as I could with live bait. But, it’s a pretty cheap way to fill the freezer and a good time to spend with some friends.
Let’s get this damned winter over with and get on with some real livin’!