Sunday, January 31, 2010

And we're off!

Today was the kick-off to the 2010 growing season - yay! According to the seed packets and the gardening books and the almanac and the moon cycles, today was a good day to start onion seeds. What you see here is the fruit of an hour's work this morning: 24 pots of yellow Copra onions, 12 pots of red Redwing onions and 12 pots of Ambition shallots. That may not sound like very much, but there are 4 seeds in each pot. Which means 96, 48 and 48 beautiful onions and shallots if all goes perfectly (which it is pretty much guaranteed not to do...).

Eliot Coleman is the God of Growers, the Guru of Gardeners. He is a commercial farmer in Maine who grows vegetables organically, all year round. Yes, all year round. In Maine. He has written a few books and appeared in a few films (including our neighbour Nick's "Island on the Edge") and when people who are trying to grow their own food hear his name they have to resist the urge to genuflect.

Anyway, Eliot Coleman and his partner Barbara Damrosch, who wrote "The Garden Primer" (which is filed under B for Bible on my bookshelf) have been my teachers in this gardening venture. So when he says it's more efficient to plant onions in 4's rather than singly, I pay attention. Onions would normally get planted every 4 inches, with rows about a foot apart. Eliot recommends planting 4 seeds together, 12 inches apart. Apparently the growing onions will gently push each other out of the way and end up looking like a lovely onion bouquet, with no adverse effect on size or quality. Efficiency isn't so critical for me, since my garden is quite modest, but I kind of like this idea - it seems companionable, and friendly. It feels like I'm providing for the social needs of my seedlings.

It was fun getting my hands dirty as I prepared the soil mix (peat moss, lime, perlite, greensand, bloodmeal, colloidal phosphate, soil and compost - recipe courtesy of Mr. Eliot) in a big wheelbarrow and filled the 48 pots. It was fun being reminded how small some seeds can be, and how hard precision can be when your hands are dirty. It was fun hauling out the heating mats to go under the trays, to keep them warm in the greenhouse. It was just plain fun, from start to finish. And I wasn't the only one feeling all was right with the world. Nick our neighbour was out and about this morning, too, and we shared a chat over the fence about the seeds he had started and the seeds I had started, about fruit tree pruning and the mink he caught in a trap (he was aiming for rats, but minks can be more dangerous for his chickens and ducks) and how wonderful it was to be starting the growing season. Two like-minded friends grinning from ear to ear. We are farmers!

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