by Charlene Burgi
Every year I miss the time to start planting winter vegetables from seed. It seems that seed-planting time coincides with when our gardens are bearing ripe produce faster than we can pick, can, freeze or give away. Despite the stacks of garden and seed catalogs that arrive in the mail during August, it is typically well into September or early October before I realize I missed the mark.
This year is different, and I attribute my heightened awareness to the crazy weather we are experiencing. As I write, I notice the two puppies nervously gazing out the windows as the sky rumbles and rains pound the thirsty earth. They long to go out to play ball and wonder why Jack and I are hunkered down instead of being out and about.
The unseasonable rains make me grateful for the rain shut-off device that will intercept the signal to the irrigation controller and prevent it from watering the garden for a few days. Though it sounds like the Bay Area had more lightning than rain, I am thankful for everyone there who planned ahead and installed a rain shut-off device. This awesome water-saving device can save you hundreds of gallons of water in the event of unexpected rain. (Another irrigation investment to consider is a smart irrigation controller—and the timing is right as MMWD will be launching new smart controller rebates starting September 1! Conditions apply, so be sure to check marinwater.org/rebates next month for complete details.)
Here, the rain is plentiful in this storm. Even though the wet weather makes it feel like winter, the temperatures are in the high 70s. The summer garden is reveling in this storm, but gardening outside at this moment is not an option. Yet, the garden shed and greenhouse beckon me to come outside and play in the dirt. Seeds can be started for a winter crop of cauliflower, beets, broccoli, peas, cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic. Lettuce and spinach planted now can be harvested before the first Marin frost. For me, for a change, this year will see a timely crop going into the ground.
The rumbling goes beyond the thunder outside. It is coming from my kitchen. Not to be forgotten are the ripened crops picked and needing attention. Zucchini waits to be shredded and frozen. Plums, prunes and pears need to go into the dehydrator. Earlier this week my friend shared her abundance of cucumbers, and pickles are on my list of things to do. Peaches await blanching before going into the freezer for future smoothies.
Recipes seem to accompany the bags of excess our gardens produce. Invitations pour in to sample gluten-free blueberry muffins made with homegrown berries, or vegetable soups and chopped salads from neighboring gardens. Twenty-five pounds of garlic found their way to the front door and have me scrambling to share the wealth or figure out how much pesto can be made with this treasure! Jars of homemade jam from friends that specialize in these types of treats are filling the cupboards.
Is there any relief to this flurry? A faithful blog reader posted a comment this past week that can help all of you living in Marin and facing the overwhelming onslaught. It seems there are locations designated throughout Marin where gardeners meet and share their excess crops with those wishing to sample something new, or trade for varieties not found in their own garden. By the look of the website, opengardenproject.org, volunteers are also available to help on many levels of gardening. Check the website and the locations close to your home and let me know what you find. Your reports may give me incentive to get something started here in northeast California—perhaps for the winter crop??