January 28, 2013

A winter garden

Garlic growing

In the fall, I planted four garlic cloves and crossed my fingers. The soil had been used already for tomato plants and I didn’t have much compost left, so I added coffee grounds and watered them occasionally when I remembered. Talk about neglect. To my utter delight, I recently noticed two of them growing and wondered if the other two — which are closer to the wall where they’d receive less of any rainfall that made it that far — would appear. Sure enough, there they are!

I always enjoyed watching the snowdrops appear in my mother’s garden in the winter, and her seedlings pop up in the spring indoors. As a child, it’s fascinating to watch life grow. My first solo experience was planting apple seeds. The odds were against me, unbeknownst to me, but I had thirteen little trees at one point. All but one eventually died. That one was about eleven years old, afflicted with aphids and leaning over when my mother tried to push it over. The shaking shocked it enough, I guess, that it finally bloomed the next spring and, incredibly, bore fruit. I planted that tree when I was nine, fully expecting it to bear edible apples eventually, completely oblivious to how we normally reproduce apple trees, by grafting. If someone had told me back then that I had a 1 in 10,000 chance of getting proper apples (not crabapples) from an apple tree planted from seed, I might have given up. I learned this fact at UBC farm years after my tree was removed. The tree had six apples, half of which the squirrels got but did not enjoy (as usual). I saved seeds from that but probably waited too long as they did not germinate last year. So when it comes to growing food, I definitely have more luck than expertise.

I also haven’t planned ahead — I didn’t buy winter bulbs for snowdrops and didn’t get around to planting winter greens — except for planting that garlic. And watching little green tops emerge from the soil and grow, in the middle of winter, is so exciting! When everything else still feels quiet and dormant, brown, and still waiting for a decent snowfall, seeing fresh life is such a joy. I suddenly feel a strong desire to plant more so I can watch it grow.

What edibles do you grow in the winter?