Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's Gettin' Hot in Here: Summer-Like Temperature Rocks the Spring Garden

From Seed to Salad in a New York Minute
Does Climate Change Impact the Dinner Plate?

With the August heat withering just-planted annuals in the northeast, gardeners can be forgiven for mistaking Memorial Weekend with Independence Day holiday.  
In fact, it was just a little more than month or so ago when the seed catalogs were enticing us to dream of the soon to be sunnier days ahead with glamorous, runway horticulture stars of the season.

I perused the Renee’s Seeds
list like the Bergdorf catalog. 
The offerings would make blush.
Colors! Texture! Taste! Style!
Plus Renee’s Seeds are the real deal – Not genetically treated or modified.
I was undeniably difficult to select from the exciting variety of seed offerings. 
The seed packets’ art design alone is enough to send Rodarte-induced bliss.  

By and large, I followed my classic, modern design theme:  edible landscape plants. Accessorized by more than a few stunning ornamental beauties.  Like any hopeless romantic, I want all dates, er, my plant selections, to do at least double duty: i.e. look good and offer an intoxicating fragrance, or turn up the volume with texture and aural tones or light up the garden with soft soothing color or bold, luscious tones and patterns.  Never mind all that effort is to attract the pollinators. 
Garden-lovers are smitten. 
We believe it’s all about, me, me, me!

The day the chosen seed packets arrived in the mail the initial feeling was not unlike waiting for a first kiss.  Oh the anticipation…
I tenderly, eagerly, took out each artful packet, and like a museum patron, admired the botanical art image adorning the front of the packet.
The Two Color Fiesta Mexican Tomatillos – Heirloom, Purple and Toma Verde Green, feature a yellow blossom, two violet-centered tomatoes and a green one on a tender vine, for example. 
Another must-have was the Heirloom Watermelon Radishes. I first tasted these adorable, preppy-looking pink and green beauties last year at the Union Square Greenmarket.  So I didn’t hesitate when I saw the Renee’s Gardens featured seeds complete with still-life cover art. 
All the Renee’s Garden seed packets are floating in front of a greenish white garden gate with the tag line, “Set a table in the garden” – Renee Shepherd quote at the bottom.

I set the seed individual Renee’s Garden seed packets out in some kind of order: a fashion stylist laying out the design and look.

I also Love, love the Kitazawa Seed Company (
The quality of their products is supreme and the seed packets are works of art too.    

And who couldn't love Comstock Seeds? 

Next up was the seed preparation. Their spa-like makeover prior to the main event. Placed in cow pots, the seeds are rooted into the manure cups, lined up under the grow lights like beach queen hopefuls in their tanning beds.  

When Garden Supply Company ( couldn’t meet the demand for their grow lights, we ordered from  (
In fact, the HTG grow-light turned out to be less expensive and a success.  
The seeds nestled in their cow pots, under the light where they stayed for a month or two getting gorgeous and healthy.  Did I say “spa?” J

Meanwhile, we prepared the planting beds like ladies in waiting getting ready for the noble visit.
We amended the compost with manure. Raked the garden – no turning.  We are following the advice of Barbara Damarosch, garden expert, garden columnist for the Washington Post: “A Cook’s Garden, ( and author of many books, including “The Garden Primer.”

I attended a lecture at the New York Botanical Garden last year where Barbara spoke her garden work with her esteemed husband and fellow garden expert, Eliot Coleman.  Together they have joined forces to produce garden books that have earned the status of “bible” garden guide or teacher, including “Four Season Farm,”  (  
Both she and Eliot recommend as little disturbance of the soil as possible. 
So, OK, no double digging or turning the soil.
We couldn’t help rototilling a tad and putting Alaskan fish oil on the garden.  Perhaps when our soil is as lush and rich as Barbara’s and Eliot’s, we can mitigate the need to turn and amend.  Until such time, we are investing in the soil quality.

At the same time, the peas went in first, perfectly timed with the Ides of March.  Right before St. Patrick’s Day, the peas were placed near the lattice border and under the tuteurs patiently waiting for the peas’ tendril embrace. 
Then it snowed! 
“A-Peasingly Perfect! 

I wish most garden lovers would embrace the late winter and early spring for all its nuanced glory.  Think Cherry blossoms, magnolias. Plant more spring bulbs that can offer a succession of colorful bloom times.

However, most garden lovers wait impatiently for the weather to warm enough to plant.
I always advise waiting until Mother’s Day is past.  
After that, I say the Mother to celebrate is Mother Nature!

Soon enough, the potatoes and leeks and onions went in layers into big container pots.
The Greek oregano was peeking through the soil from last year.  The asparagus was waving its feathery, frothy plumes and dazzling with a few, Mont Blanc-pen-thin spears.

Shortly thereafter the cow pots with green shoots were placed in the garden according to the potager design.  The shisito peppers, tomatoes, kale, tomatillas, cilantro, peppers (hello, salsa!), spinach, eggplant, basil, parsley, radishes, zucchini and Rainbow carrots to start (Red, White, Purple, Yellow & Orange from the Seed of the Month Club, ( a gift from family: Jenny & Brian!  This is a perfect gift, FYI for anyone who loves fresh food and gardens). 
The grow cages went on the young tomato plants. 

We gaze lovingly at the grids leafing out, the birds’ frequent pit stops, and curse the baby groundhog that managed to scale the fence and eat all the broccoli before we could shoo him away. 
The last thing we’re sure we saw was his Olympian pole-vaulting sprint out of the garden.  He seemed to have a number pinned to his back… hmmm.  J

Mainly, we waited for the miracle of Mother Nature.

But all too soon, it’s really, really hot!  We need to supplement the watering.  Wasn’t it just so cool that we were wearing coats in early May??
Like Animal Kingdom coming from behind in the Kentucky Derby race of the roses, the heat of August is pressing upon us, roses are bursting out, the yarrow is in full color on the west side of the garden and the Labor Day heat breaks through Memorial weekend by more than a few lengths.

It’s salad time all too soon. 

Delicious, succulent and fresh.  But a little too soon for my taste.

Happy Spring, Darlings!