Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seeds of Uncertainty

Well, I’ve put in the radishes, spinach, lettuce, and peas. Everything except the peas has already come up. It seems as though these cool-weather plants come up much more rapidly when you plant them in actual cool weather. That sounds like it should be self-explanatory, but I had a late start this year and ended up planting everything in June. By that time in Virginia, the weather is already boiling up into a soupy mixture of humidity and skin-searing sunshine.

The spinach came up, but shriveled soon afterward, even though mine was of the Bloomsdale variety, which is supposed to last fairly well against the heat. The Bibb lettuce languished for a while, but later became a success, surprising everyone. Someone told me that lettuce isn’t supposed to do well in this part of the country because the weather is too warm, but mine lasted all through July before it bolted.

I planted the radishes merely as an insect trap, to lure the flea beetles and other leaf-eating insects away from the spinach and lettuce. In general, radishes are a rewarding crop because they’re so vigorous and they grow to maturity in very little time; however, my radishes gave me no excitement because I’m not a radish eater. The sharpness and bitterness of radishes makes my tongue curl up in dismay. For the sake of experimentation, though, I did eat a few of my Cherry Belles, and found their flavor somewhat sweeter than that of grocery store radishes. The Cherry Belle variety forms a marble-sized red root that shrivels up very quickly if you don’t eat it immediately. I wouldn’t recommend it to radish lovers, because it’s too small to provide much satisfaction to the eater.

My greatest hope for the late planting is that the snow peas will produce at least a handful of pods. Nearly all my spring peas were eaten to the ground by the rabbits. Only one plant survived, and it produced one or two sad-looking pods, then turned brown and died. But having planted the spring crop too late, I fear I may have made the same mistake with the fall plants. Success or failure depends on the whims of the weather gods, and all I can do is hope they may smile on my small patch of earth.

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