Rooted in Richmond…The Month of November in a Small West County Garden
I love this time of year and all of the promise and excitement that it holds. Secret plans are being drawn up, lists are being made, and visions of plum tomatoes dance in my head. Is it the cold, wintery weather that’s got me in a tizzy? No. Is Christmas and New Year’s festivities that have my heart feeling exuberant? While I do love the holidays, that is not it either. All of you vegetable gardeners know, don’t you? Yes, it is the season of seed catalogs.
I received my first one in the mail about a week ago, and it is an old favorite- The Southern Exposure Seed Exchange Catalog. Wanting to postpone the bittersweet excitement of opening it (and eventually finishing it), I have just laid it reverently on my bedside table. Every night my eyes gently caress the cover as I wonder about the untold delights between its covers. Occasionally I will flip it open to a random page and gaze agog at the endless collection of eggplant varieties, but for now, I am holding off on reading it from cover-to-cover. Before long, the catalogs from Baker Creek, Seed Savers Exchange, and the Trees of Antiquity will join the ranks on my bedside table. If you haven’t yet discovered the excitement of seed catalogs, then I suggest you treat yourself this season. I swear that wine writers have stolen a page from the folks who do the writing for these catalogs; each description contains such luscious descriptions and fascinating history that I am determined to try and grow the described variety (even if it requires climactic conditions quite outside the realm of possibility for the Richmond Hills.) Let me give you a taste! In the FIVE pages dedicated to different types of corn seeds, the writers describe the Floriani Red Flint variety of corn as follows: “[A] family heirloom from the Valsugana valley of Italy near Trento, via William Rubel. Originally brought to Italy from America, it evolved over hundreds of years to become the staple polenta corn of the valley….Cornmeal has a pink cast, and makes a polenta with a remarkably rich, complex flavor” (19).
The names alone of many of these varieties are enough to induce vegetable colored daydreams. Imagine being able to tell your gardener friends that you are not just growing garlic, but instead you have German Porcelain, Inchelium Red, and Nootka Rose varieties! And maybe you thought that bibb leaf and looseleaf lettuce were as much variety as you needed, but then when you flip to the lettuce section your mouth starts watering over the Yugoslavian Red Butterhead and the Drunken Woman varieties. Before you know it all of this dreaming leads to another favorite winter-time activity for gardeners everywhere- reimagining garden spaces.
Besides the seed catalogs that start to congregate on my bedside table, I also begin gathering graph paper, pencils and rulers at this time of year. As I think back over what did and didn’t work the previous year, and I drool over all the different plants I want to fit in the following year, I begin to plot out the new shape of my garden. Usually I am trying to squeeze just a little more planting space out of an area, or I am figuring out how to rotate my crops, but this year I am going for even larger revamping. I have drawn out a completely new bed configuration that will (hopefully) provide for greater ease of movement and more bed space. Now, I just need to get out there and move the soil around!
Happy Holidays to you and your garden!