march gardenHope, my friends (as John McCain is wont to say) is NOT a thing with feathers. This picture at the top is hope. Actually, no; that picture is of my garden on March 7, in the afternoon and the air temperature is 50 degrees and it is raining in that drippy, cold, remorseless way that we get up here in Upstate New York when it should be snowing instead..only it isn’t.

On the other hand, though, it IS hope because Aunt Toby took the soil temperature of that place, in the rain (oh, the things I do for you guys…you’ll never know…), using my trusty…extra Taylor meat thermometer with the metal probe thingy (because our Agway didn’t carry soil thermometers at the time and we somehow ended up with two meat thermometers, one of which got sent to the ‘seeds box’ to be turned into a soil thermometer). And the soil temperature in that place was 32.9 degrees F. Just slightly over the freezing mark. And why do I say this is a picture of hope?

march kaleThis picture here. This plant is right next to the place in the top picture. That is kale. Green, juicy kale. Growing in my garden…in March..after the deer nibbled the plants down last fall and left a bunch of old decrepit stems out in the snow and cold…all winter long. Sometimes they were under the snow and protected..and a whole lot of other times, they were just like they are right now, naked.

This week, we got some nice warm weather and sun. As a matter of fact, it got as high as 63 degrees yesterday, though since there is snow around that kale plant, the ground is not getting a whole lot of sun right now. Indeed, there are other parts of the garden where I tried to take the temperature of the soil and couldn’t even get the probe into the ground because that part is frozen solid. But in this area, it is just above freezing and that is enough to wake up certain plants with the message that spring is here and to get going.

I don’t have enough bandwidth or space here to provide the photos of other hopefuls in the garden, but I’ve got a couple of onions that got missed in the fall and garlic as well and those plants are 3-4” high at the moment. But, of course, in order to have those plants in the garden growing NOW, they had to be growing in the garden last fall.

The plot thickens as Aunt Toby winds up for today’s lesson (you knew there had to be a didactic finish to this, right?): Planning is everything.

If you want to have kale to cook up in March of 2010, that means that you have to plan to have kale growing in your garden during growing season 2009. And that means that if you have not gotten those seeds started, you had better trot yourself down to your local garden supply store or sit thyself down at yon Internet access point with the screen thingy and start searching for kale seeds and get them shipped to you. There are other things that you can get out in the spring this year that will winter over as well – some even up here in Upstate New York – so you may as well take a look at this little list:

Kale and other greens from the cabbage family like the asian greens and collards
Winter bunching onions (these are usually seeds, but we’ve had luck overwintering onions we’ve put in from the really tiny onion sets)
Mache
Winter hardy lettuce seeds (Pine Tree Garden Seeds has these)
Garlic – when that starts to come up, dig up the entire bulb, split it apart and replant, spacing each plant 6” apart. You can also let it go just as it is and harvest it as ‘green garlic’ which is very yummy and good grilled.
Depending on where you live in the US and your growing Zone, things like chard, spinach and other members of the cabbage family may overwinter for you and start to grow again in the spring. You might want to check with your local garden center, Cooperative Extension, or other gardeners in the area.

Another veggie that will reappear in the spring but you can’t harvest right then are potatoes. I can’t tell you the number of times we think we have cleaned out the potato bed of every single potato, only to find starting in May, that there are potato plants everywhere. We then dig them up carefully and transplant them and allow them to grow to maturity and harvest them then. Don’t try to harvest them right when you find them sprouted – you wouldn’t want to eat the mushy tubers at the bottom; that is for sure. But if you lift them carefully and move them to another spot by themselves, in the late summer/early fall, you will have your own patch of potatoes. By the way, if you end up in the spring with the left over potatoes in your cupboard, all sprouted, don’t throw them away, not even on the compost heap – plant the plants out and get more potatoes!!

So, hope IS a thing with dirt on it.
(cross posted also at Aunt Toby’s blog, Kitchen Counter Economics