The Richmond Register


February 27, 2014

Making plans for spring planting

RICHMOND — My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.

Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place. 

He would lay the seed on top of the ground that was frozen too hard to dig in, and cover them with potting soil. Dock was of the opinion that if you didn’t have your peas planted by Valentine’s Day, you’d  just about waited too late.  

My mom was about the same way. Like Dock Mitchell, she could hardly wait for any excuse to be out there stirring around in her kitchen garden. She, my dad and my younger brothers would scour the woods, fields and pastures for dried clumps of sedge grass, dead weed stalks and fallen limbs that could be piled up and set on fire to “burn off a lettuce bed” during the first week of March. 

Supposedly this burn off would kill any weed or grass seed still in the ground. However, she sowed lettuce, radish seeds and even onion sets so thickly in the ashes and soil she’d worked up into them, that a weed seed wouldn’t have had a fighting chance to come up even if it had survived the fire. 

I figure the ashes, mixed with dried chicken manure, loosened and fertilized the soil, and that’s about the only purpose the burning served. On the other hand, we never failed to have an ample supply of lettuce and green onions weeks before anything else was coming out of the garden so it’s hard to argue with success.

By the time peas were ready to pick we were generally tired of “kilt” or “scalded” lettuce and onions, except for my dad who would probably have eaten that dish for breakfast and supper, 365 days a year if Mom had been able to keep her garden going in weather like this.  

Over the last several weeks I have been posting on Facebook photos of flowers I’ve shot in warmer times because just looking at the pictures makes me feel a little warmer and maybe I can generate enough good karma to hasten spring along.

I’ve already made three orders to the Totally Tomatoes Seed Company, and I have a blank order form lying here beside the keyboard even as we speak. I have thumbed through the paper catalogue so many times that I’ve erased the numbers off several pages, and I’ve sent an email to them requesting another hard copy because this one is falling apart.

I can’t take my computer to bed with me and my laptop is kaput, and besides all that, there’s not a seed company on the internet that can create a website with that wonderfully warm feeling a seed catalogue has when you take it to bed with you.  

In addition, all orders to Totally Tomatoes before March 15 get customers a free gift of two new pepper or tomato varieties that they can be among the first to try in their home gardens. I figure that with three orders I’ll have enough to share with Keeter and Steve when Ketter gets down here to fix my tiller.  

Last weekend, Loretta and I were out shopping the discount and hardware stores in Richmond and Berea because she needed a little hinge for something she’d put together from a kit, and then after several hours of tedious assembly discovered that it needed six hinges and they’d only put five in the box.

So while my wife messed around in the section where they stocked that sort of stuff, I took turns spinning those rotating display shelves that seed companies set out there in the aisles crammed full of every flower and vegetable seed that might conceivably grow somewhere between the North and South Poles. I look on the back of the packets for anything “safe for zone 6.”  If I haven’t already tried it, I plan to and you never know when they’ll try to sneak a new variety of kohlrabi in there. 

I don’t plan on planting any peas or lettuce or anything else in my real garden before the middle of April. I have already started some onions and tomatoes in plastic trays I found in the garage and they may eventually wind up in it. But if the current weather pattern persists, I might wait until the middle of May.

In the meantime, it would be interesting to have some letters to the editor from the global warming, sky’s-a-falling crowd, that explains how this winter fits into their scheme of things. I don’t want to start an argument or stomp too heavily on tender toes. I’m simply curious and I only want to know and understand what’s going on and why the weather keeps getting colder from year to year.

I’m betting that explanations do abound. 

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