I awake feeling pressure of an impending deadline. My buddy Gary would boast every year how he got his tomatoes in the ground before the end of February. Today is the 26th, we have just suffered through a rare winter storm (hopefully the season’s last), the sun is shining and I’m going to get dirty.
The garden needs top soil. My research on the web tells me I can use Miracle-Gro garden soil. It has enough fertilizer mixed in to feed my garden up to three months and “grows vegetables twice as big.” This option is more appealing than visiting the Wabash guy’s hen house, shoveling chicken poop into my SUV, driving it home, carting it through the yard and mixing it with generic dirt. With tape measure in hand, I make some quick measurements, head to Home Depot and buy nine big bags of Miracle-Gro garden soil.
The easy to follow instructions suggest a 50/50 mix of Miracle-Gro garden soil and native soil. I don’t have that much native soil in my elevated garden, so it’s more like 80-percent Miracle-Gro. An uneasy feeling sets in. Is excess fertilizer going to burn my seeds and baby plants? Am I dooming my families hopes of fresh vegetables? I finally decide what’s done is done. The bed looks great; fluffy, fertile and yearning for plants.
I must have had too much wine with last night’s dinner. There are very few plants to choose from at the local stores. Lowe’s has some Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, Wabash has cabbage, broccoli and few herbs. No one has tomatoes. I hear my late buddy’s voice reminding me to get tomatoes in the ground before the end of February, and suddenly it hits me. This isn’t the end of February, but the end of January. The motivation of the deadline evaporates and feel a slight throbbing in my head; more side effects of the wine.
After a day of thinking it over, I have a new plan. My soil is yearning for plants, I’m eager to provide for my family, we live in Houston where gardens can produce all year long. I make the decision to throw in some cold weather crops. I purchase the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage plants, plus a set of onions. Red radish and Bok Choy seeds will take up more space, but still leave enough room for a couple tomato plants when they come in. I dig, plant and water, then look with pride at the little plants poking out of the ground. I envision my toddler sons enjoying Brussels sprouts (steamed, pureed and mixed with diced roast chicken). My wife’s going to love the garden fresh broccoli in her morning omelets and I can’t wait to stir fry the Bok Choy and radishes. I’ve done my part; it’s time to let the sunshine and soil finish the job.
On day five I see sprouts. I’ve been studying the my plant bed intently for nearly a week and I’m finally rewarded with straight lines of little, infant radish and Bok Choy. The cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions and broccoli look the same as the day they were planted, but my little lines of new plants show undeniable progress. My chest swells with a sense of accomplishment. This little winter garden, hastily planned as it was, is producing. And I’m glad it’s winter crops. It’s an odd winter; more chilly weather is in the forecast.
The wintry weather hits with a vengeance the very night my sprouts emerge from the ground. Even though they are winter crops, I’m worried. The little plants are young and frail; all I can do is wait and see.