Y2K, Ready or Not? Plant Now!

At my work selling seeds to nurseries and garden centers all over the country, I’ve been getting phone calls from people wanting to stock up on seeds, particularly open-pollinated varieties so they can save their own for the year 2000. I guess there are folks, particularly in Idaho and South Carolina, who figure once the computer clock flips over that 4th digit, they won’t be able to buy seeds any more. It reminds me of that scene in the movie Easy Rider when the whole commune was shuffling in a circle in the dust, flinging seeds around thinking they were assuring their future. They were going to get pretty hungry before harvest time. Better to have done some digging and made some compost already, not to mention installing drip irrigation.

I do think, Armageddon or not, it is always a good idea to have some long-standing, vigorous, forgiving plants growing in your garden so no matter what happens, you can always go out and pick something for dinner. I’d include nutritious, vitamin-rich greens that you can plant in spring and pick all season, then sow again in mid-summer for fall and winter harvest. On this list are beautiful chard with bright rainbow stems of red, yellow, white and orange that wave their dark green leaves, or frilly kale, many choices of green and purple foliage with rich taste and hearty texture. Pick either of these greens once the plants have 5 or 6 leaves, always sparing enough of the growing center so the plant can thrive and continue to produce.

Beets and carrots are easy to grow, tasty root crops that are sown in spring and hold in the garden for months, providing meals throughout the year. Choose red, gold and candy-striped beets for color and variety. Fertilize well when you sow the seeds and thin seedlings to the suggested spacing early. Those too can be replanted in July and give homegrown sweetness and substance to fall and winter dishes too, often lasting in the ground until spring.

Try planting some potatoes in March or April and sow winter squash seeds by early May, once  nights warm up and stay in the 50’s. The vines take some space but little fuss beyond making sure they have enough water during the growing season. With leafy greens in the garden, fat roots in the ground, and spuds and hardshelled, long keeping, nutty-tasting squash in the pantry next fall, you can enter the new millennium with dinner ready to cook any time.

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