Before introducing our main topic, Miss Snippy wishes to
pose the question: are wind chimes the euphonious refrain of the choir celestial, or the soundtrack of hell?
Miss Snippy’s new neighbors have just moved in and,
although they are a hundred yards away and invisible through a small woodland,
Miss Snippy is being treated to the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
from their wind chimes. Each chime keeps time in a sort of runic rhyme, and
Miss Snippy feels—as she toils in her garden—that she is forever drifting into
a dream sequence or, perhaps, a fugue state. Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle go the
chimes. Twitch, twitch, twitch goes Miss Snippy’s eye. Wind chimes are the
auditory version of the security lights on the house next door that nightly
transform your bedroom into Wrigley Field.
But let us turn our thoughts
to happier things: namely, vegetable gardens. Did you know that vegetable
gardening is the hot “new” trend? One consumer survey anticipated spending on
vegetable and fruit plants this spring would exceed all other garden purchases
except those lawn-related. And why not? Pop in a few cabbages, an apple tree, a
tomato plant or two, and soon you’ll be gamboling about the garden, gathering
armfuls of picture-perfect produce while the gentle forest creatures look on.
Miss Snippy suggests you wake
up and hear the wind chimes. Vegetable gardening is a tedious, exacting, and
time-consuming occupation. Furthermore, don’t expect the produce to look as
squeaky-clean as that purchased from the supermarket. Take Miss Snippy’s
advice: if you’re going into vegetable gardening half-heartedly, don’t go into
it at all. Join a CSA and pre-purchase shares of a local farmer’s harvest, or
make weekly pilgrimages to a farmers’ market. Pay whatever they ask; it will be
much less trouble—and almost certainly cheaper—in the long run.
There. Now that we have the
disclaimer out of the way, know that being the master of your own private
potager does have its charms. If one gardens organically, and truly enjoys the
process (bed preparation, planting, weeding, feeding, watering, fending off
pests, harvesting, etc.), the reward is tasty, healthful food served up with a
heaping helping of personal satisfaction. It also allows you, the gardener, to
grow whichever varieties catch your fancy.
Year after year Miss Snippy
sweats and swears in her own vegetable patch, eventually bearing her asparagus
and carrots triumphantly kitchen-ward. Consequently, we are full of
agricultural insight. First of all, we advise beginning with just one or two
crops; for instance, many gardeners specialize in tomatoes (which Miss Snippy
recommends growing in pots). Don’t bother with melons, okra, beefsteak
tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, apricots, and similar crops unsuited to our
climate unless you’re more interested in challenge than success.
For the very easiest of vegetable fare—direct seed, water,
and harvest—try lettuce (which can be cut to two inches and allowed to
re-crop), spinach, bush beans (green beans that need no staking), pumpkins and
zucchini (though they appreciate a little fish fertilizer), garlic and shallots
(plant bulbs in October, feed throughout spring, harvest in July), and Swiss
chard (‘Bright Lights’ is fantastically ornamental with neon-bright stems). In
addition, arugula, cilantro, and parsley are easy to grow in the maritime NW
and will reseed themselves into infinity.
Vegetables require a minimum six hours of direct sun daily
(lettuce and spinach being cautious exceptions). Many vegetables are handsome
enough to include in your ornamental beds, and, conversely, flowers add panache
to the kitchen garden. Here’s a secret weapon: floating row cover. Reemay and
other brands of spun polyester fabric are excellent for protecting carrots from
rust fly, corn seeds from birds, and broccoli and cabbage from an army of
caterpillars. Used with or without support hoops, row cover also shades and
The real dilemma may be finding time to do justice to your
fresh and flavorful bounty once it arrives in the kitchen. That’s why Miss
Snippy recommends every earnest tiller of the soil choose a partner with an
equal affinity for the culinary arts. Imagine the bliss of dumping a basket of
dirty potatoes and leeks into the sink and being greeted with a smile and the
promise of porrusalda for dinner.
But vegetable gardening isn’t only about healthy eating;
it’s also a healthy workout with moderate weight lifting, aerobic exercise,
muscle toning, and stretching. It gets a body out in the elements to enjoy
sunshine, birdsong, and the company of pets who view the strawberry plants as
comfy cushions. Best of all, gardening is a superb stress reducer—unless, of
course—your neighbor has wind chimes.