Garden Surprises

The supervisors. At least the sheep and the mares aren't here, too.

The supervisors. At least the sheep and the mares aren’t here, too.

A gardener’s life is full of surprises. Admittedly, some of them are like the ones where the cows get out and come to supervise your weeding efforts, but others produce new and interesting knowledge. After 40-odd years at it, I would have thought I’d run into pretty much everything, but like guests at a birthday party, my garden keeps popping up and yelling “Surprise!”
For example, it’s almost impossible to get all the seeds when you harvest dill. You’ll always have a dozen or two hit the ground as you harvest. Unlike many plants that need a relatively long quiescent period of rest before they sprout, I have found dill fairly quickly sprouts from these escaped seeds. Thinking of dill as an annual, I would weed them and give them to the chickens. This year, I didn’t get them plucked out, and wound up with a dozen or so growing merrily in the same bed with the broccoli I planted there in the fall. I figured, what the heck – they’ll winter-kill (dill=annual=winter-kill, right?). Those seedlings sailed right through the winter, despite many days of temps in the lower to mid 30s and several days of temps in the mid 20s. As of early March, they’re putting on height with no signs of frost damage. I didn’t lose one.

Overwintered dill.

Overwintered dill.

I also had a bunch of celery plants that I had replanted after harvest. This is one of those interesting techniques that never seems to make it into formal gardening circles — planting food scraps. With celery, you harvest the celery, cut off the stalks about three or four inches above the bottom and put the bottom in about half an inch of water. Change the water periodically and don’t let the bottom of the stalk dry out. Within a few days, you’ll see new leaves sprouting from the cut-off stalk. Once they show some actual roots, plant in the garden. This works with store-bought celery, too, by the way. Like my dill, the celery came through the winter with flying colors. I expect it will go to seed once the weather warms up, although if I keep it cut back I might get another year out of it.

This celery is a bit stronger-flavored than the store-bought stuff, but it's great in soups, stews and salads.

This celery is a bit stronger-flavored than the store-bought stuff, but it’s great in soups, stews and salads.

I have long replanted the cut off root ends of green onions, which will go on to give me at least one more harvest. The onions grown for “scallions” are actually a perennial, which winters over quite well. The surprise was that I had several pots that got shunted aside and hidden (don’t ask me how – all sorts of odd things get hidden in my garden by fairies, children, elves and who knows what) for so long that they completely dried up. Being in my usual state of busyness, I just left them sit, thinking that eventually I would get around to cleaning them out and reusing the pots for something else. Be durned if they didn’t start to sprout again when it rained that fall; I would have sworn they were dead. They not only sprouted, they divided and produced more onions.

Isn't this pretty?

Isn’t this pretty?

Two of the smaller beds in my garden are shady – they might get two hours of full sun, an hour or two of shade and the rest is dappled shade. I plant them with things like lettuce and other leafy greens. This year I had a few extra red cabbage seedlings, so I stuck them in a shade bed in late fall. They wintered over nicely and began growing this spring, but instead of forming a head, the leaves spread out in whorls. They’re very pretty, sort of grey-green with red veins, and they taste just fine. In fact they’re easier to slice for cole slaw and much easier to turn into stuffed cabbage leaves. This is an accident I’ll probably be repeating.
Wonder what else is in store for me this year?

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