First, though, we need the seed. That means, for us, buying seed. I have none to swap, none saved. And buying seed means seed catalogs. They used to come in the mail about now, thick books, some full of photos of luscious tomatoes, bright green lettuce, glossy onions. My father would let me choose a packet or two to try. My next door neighbour and I at the age of ten would argue the merits of our choices.
The reward for the packet of Big Boy or Early Girl tomatoes and oakleaf lettuce was hours and hours of weeding and picking.
Seed catalogs are online now, and I am spending hours poring over them – lured by “29 packets of non-GMO seeds for only $1.80!!!!” And “Early and BIG!!!!” In the end, I will order from one of the companies I’ve used in the past – Vesey’s, Johnny’s or Shepherd’s.
I ordered seeds one year, right after returning to Maine, had a little garden plot the size of a bed quilt, and found it was quite weedy. I cleared and cleared before putting in my transplants. My then-husband, whom we shall call Dennis since that is not his name, mentioned the problem to a friend at work. “You need a cover crop,” the friend said, misled by descriptions that this was a field, not just a wee bit of unturfed ex-pasture. He gave Dennis a bag – about three POUNDS of buckwheat. Yes, buckwheat, the grain that grows anywhere and with great vigour. It was the poor man’s wheat in our part of Maine. One morning, unknown to me, Dennis put down the buckwheat on my garden. All three pounds of it.
Aroostook County, Maine, has fertile soil. It supports potatoes and giant spruce trees. Anything will germinate in the rich, moist earth. It may get frost killed, but it will burst forth and put down roots. You can’t leave a wooden-handled axe leaning against a tree overnight for fear it will sprout.
I had a lovely crop of buckwheat. I had some tomatoes and peppers, some beans, and lots of buckwheat, which I pulled out by the handfuls every other day.
This year we are planning a big garden. We are in agricultural zone three – sub-arctic. The land hasn’t been opened in perhaps a decade. I may be able to get it certified organic. Any advice? Good crops to plant for keeping, canning, and marketing? Where are you buying seeds?