Monday, March 8, 2010

A Personal Garden

Adding my name and number to that list at the 2nd Annual Seed Swap seemed appropriate as I had just learned that my garden space had doubled this season and felt a little help would be great. It was a list for those putting in a new garden, or new to gardening, interested in receiving a garden kit. Celt telephoned me the other day to schedule a time for me to pick up my kit. With boxes stuffed with neatly packaged envelopes lining her living room floor, she handed me a packet labeled "A Personal Garden" and indicated that everything I needed, seeds and instructions, were all inside.
Celt has been giving away seeds since 2002. She writes in the information provided in her garden kit that it's her way of being the change that she wants to see in the world and giving back to her community. Each kit contains enough seeds to grow several hundred pounds of vegetables, providing a small family most of their fresh vegetables for a year. The dollar amount of savings from this kit is truly worth hundreds of dollars, and as Celt states in the "About Celt Schira and the Garden Kits" portion of the printed materials she provides, the joy of gardening - priceless. So true! I was excited to see what was inside as I poured the contents of my garden kit onto the table.Dozens of seed packets spilled out, all individually labeled, and then three pages of carefully folded instructions landed on top.
Organizing the packets into the categories mentioned (cool season, early spring, spring, warm season, late July/early August and late summer, August through September) was easy to do as it was all spelled out in Celt's easy-to-follow instructions. With directions for sowing a small amount of seeds directly in our gardens in intervals in the spring and again in the late summer/early fall to yield a long harvest, the Cool Season crops include several varieties of green onions, lettuce (described as lettuce riot - a happy mix of many heirloom leaf lettuces for cut-and-come-again salads), a fast growing, 30-day spring radish and fava beans, a nitrogen fixing edible cover crop yielding tender shelled beans when young, or when more mature, delicious shelled and sauted or simmered.
The early spring packets include mixed flowers referred to as a "beneficial mix". Described as a mixture of flowers and flowering herbs that attract pollinators and predator insects to help take care of the garden, some require cool weather to germinate so the instructions indicate planting a pinch as soon as the ground can be worked and then planting a few at a time until June. Also included for spring planting are red and yellow beets, broccoli (to be started in small pots indoors and transplanted into the garden once they have four true leaves), a packet containing heirloom varieties of savoy and red cabbage, Nantes carrots, Swiss chard, cilantro, dill (with instructions to plant near the cabbage to discourage the cabbage butterfly), a mix of Asian greens (oriental greens, pak choi, mustard and other stuff great for stir fries when young and tender), Italian flat leaf parsley, edible pod peas, spinach, leeks and sweet yellow clover, a nitrogen fixing cover crop that mines phosphorus from the subsoil to plant as a cover plant the first part of May in any garden beds that won't be used until fall.
Sowing directly around June 1, or starting in pots in May for early June transplant to the garden, the warm season crops include sweet mammoth and genovese basils and two varieties of bush beans and cranberry pole beans (from Krista's bean project), sweet marketmore cucumbers, two to three different colors and shapes of summer squashes, small winter squashes - acorn and delicata, 3 to 4 mixed varieties of hard shelled winter squashes, a mixture of sunflowers (edible white and black oilseed) and two varieties of tall flowers (zinnias and large marigolds).
Turnips and rutabagas are included for the late July - early August catagory. Rutagagas, one of my winter root vegetable favorites, always seem to taste so much better when grown in your garden.
August through September late summer vegetables include a fall salad mix called Mesclun, or salad nicoise, that contains a mix of chicories, radicchio, Italian parsley, chives, green onion, spinach, romaine and other green stuffs that add flavor and crunch to heirloom leaf lettuces. The instructions say to plant a pinch weekly for continuous fall salads. Spinach, black Spanish winter radishes, a mixture of heirloom kales and a packet labeled Happy Green are also inluded with the late summer vegetables. Happy greens are described as one of Celt's own breeding projects, a broccoli cross kale or red cabbage that makes delicious leaves. Sounds like these happy greens get quite large as each plant requires about a square foot of space, and when kept harvested, the leaves will continue to come back. In the milder winter climate of the Pacific Northwest, the description says that in the spring it may even come back a broccoli. Tyfon, a winter hardy, edible cabbage-family cover crop with mild tasting leaves that can be cut repeatedly and sauteed or steamed is the cover crop included with this group of seeds to help protect our garden soil.
Celt estimates the "street value" of each of the kits she gives away, including her vegetable starts, to be at least $30.00. Based on the prices I've seen for heirloom and organic seeds and starts, I suspect that estimate to be on the low side in today's market. She also offers heirloom tomato starts along with some herbs and other vegetables for sale from April to June. Celt cheerfully accepts donations to help fund her purchase of seed envelopes, seeds and potting soil in which to grow her starts so that she can help more gardeners grow edible food gardens. Tell your friends.
Celt maintains an informative garden blog at Celt M. Schira Blog. For more information or to make a donation, contact Celt at Celt writes that when we save seed and pass them along, we gain skill in growing and saving them, and in cooking the bounty of our gardens, it all becomes part of our heritage. Thank you, Celt, for so generously sharing!

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