Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day, again! Thank you, Phil!

Well, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow today. Six more weeks of winter. Hmpf. Considering around here, it hasn’t been much like a normal winter, I see no reason to disagree with the little furry prognosticator. I feel bad for the little guy, too. He’s a lot nicer than I’d be if someone woke me up from a nice long nap. Groundhog Day is a wake-up call for all of us who grow things, especially food for the table.

I took a walk out into my vegetable garden this morning to have a look, and it’s not often at this time of year that the gate isn’t frozen shut and the beds aren’t under a foot or more of snow.

The past two winters here, near Philadelphia, have been brutal. This year, it has been a never-ending autumn, with many days above 50°F. Some pessimists are waiting for Mother Nature to get even with some heavy duty snow and storms yet this season, but I choose to think she’s telling us she’s sorry for how she treated us last winter. I’ve never had chard still growing from the past summer on February 2. Unfortunately, my expensive garlic is also sprouting since it has been warmish, and a good hard frost could damage it severely. All this comes with gardening, the good and the bad.

What Groundhog Day means to us kitchen gardeners is that half the winter is gone, and it’s time to get plans made for planting this year’s vegetable garden. Time to really take stock of what grew well and what didn’t. What the critters ate first and what the family really likes to eat. And what’s just fun to grow. Time to stop wallowing in the Winter Doldrums and get started.

A third of my garden is given over to an asparagus bed which is now well enough established to feed us through the whole asparagus season. The only other constant is tomatoes, lots of tomatoes. The rest of the space inside our deer fence is pretty much anything goes. Got some free strawberry plants with my seed order last season, and while they did wonderfully well, the chipmunks and squirrels got all of the berries. They’re small enough to get through the chicken wire I have domed over the plants. Unfortunately, since I have no other sunny spot to plant them, they may have to be pulled and given away to someone with a smaller chipmunk population.

This season, in addition to the usual tomatoes, I’m thinking filet beans, more chard, chile peppers and sweet peppers. Maybe a little salad stuff. And maybe a smallish patch of corn.

I’m going to spend another week dreaming, and then it’s ready, set, go. Thank you Phil, for the reminder.

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