on the afternoon of january 27 i went grocery shopping and bought a tiny little spider plant as a surprise gift for my mom. then i realized i’d need a bit of potting soil to plant it in a larger container. 20 pounds of dirt later i’m in the back yard rummaging through the recycling bin and scrubbing down every plastic container i can find, setting up my macgyvered tea-tray seed starting station with an old heating pad, sorting through my overgrown seed hoard. by nighttime i had six varieties tucked in and simmering in soygurt cups.
the first seedling to germinate, a striped roman tomato, raised its little green head on january 31. the others followed close and not long after it really hit home just how early this is, how much work will be involved in keeping these preemies healthy and alive until mid-may. last year i started a few things in mid-february and even that was too early. margaret lauderbach is tisk-tisking me from her gardening column.
even so, i keep starting more seeds. around 15 more since that first planting. i do them a few at a time, and with the volume i’m growing this year i’ll still be adding more seeds well into april.
i got a couple shower caddies to use as shelves on my south-facing windows, to create a little more usable space. it’s been beautiful and sunny here lately--yesterday it got up to 58 degrees, and on saturday it was 61 with a warm breeze from the south.
i’m trying to grow almost exclusively heirlooms (or at least open-pollinates) this year. i accumulated seeds for a ton of new plants and varieties i haven’t tried before--now i just need to find space. here are a few that i’m extra excited about:
purple tomatillos: this will be my first time growing tomatillos, purple or otherwise. i LOVE purple veggies, especially those that aren’t normally purple. i’m also excited to grow purple bell peppers and maybe some purple kohlrabi.
turkish orange eggplant: these are much smaller than the eggplants i’ve grown before, so i’m hoping *maybe* they’ll also be more productive and possibly earlier to mature. also, they’re orange!
jelly melon cucumber: one of the few out-and-out novelty items i’m trying this year. i have terrible luck with cucumbers, and this one has a ridiculous DTM, is native to some place in africa, and basically i have very little hope growing them. but the fruit with its spiny orange skin and slimy green insides is so cool looking.
moon and stars watermelon: another plant that i have almost no chance with, especially since i can already predict that i won’t give it enough space in the garden. beautiful, though.
cape gooseberries (a.k.a. groundcherries): i grew these last year but with some major complications, like starting them too late and not knowing what they were. none of my cherries ripened by the end of the season so i’m giving it another go.
blue jade corn: a dwarf heirloom variety of sweet corn from SSE that is so shockingly, beautifully blue-purple, even after cooking. i first saw them in this post from "seasonal wisdom," a local garden blog by one of the authors of “grocery gardening.”
striped roman tomato: i didn’t grow any paste tomatoes last year, but with the amount of sauce i ended up making it would’ve been nice to have some. normally i think paste tomatoes look boring but these are stripy and cool, and supposedly they even taste good uncooked.
white snowball tomato: i’ll be honest, these look completely unappetizing, like they’ve been exsanguinated by bunnicula. but, imagine them for sauce! it’ll look like alfredo but taste like marinara.
black moor (or black mauri) tomato: i love “black” tomatoes. these are the only grape-type i’ve seen. chocolate cherry was my favorite variety last year and i’m hoping these taste similar.
to the other gardeners who might be reading this, what new plants and varieties are you most excited about growing this season?