My Heirloom Garden Plan

IMG_5051We had heavy snow in Provo two days ago. I took a walk in the early morning and I loved seeing the gliding, sliding  flakes float past me in the soft light. I kept thinking, “I get to live here!” My son Ross, FaceTimed me from sunny Arizona and I showed him the storm.  He remembered when he was 9, he told me that spring was coming and there would be no more snow storms on the way. He told me that I said, “It always snows in March in Utah.” Ross said he was so sure he bet me a candy bar it wouldn’t snow again. Sadly it did! After the call I laughed,  feeling like some old crone predicting storms and stealing candy from children. Oh, that’s a great memory he has of me!

In “the deep midwinter” us gardeners dream of spring and seeds. The catalogs beckon with glossy pictures of ripe fruit and vegetables. My February Procrastinated Proactive Pursuit is due and I am delivering. Hey–remember February was short some days this year! Here is my garden plan.

IMG_5055This is such a thrill for me, because I always wanted a garden plan year to year, but never got around to do it. Procrastination no more!  This year is going to be different! I went online to an “heirloom seed” company called Seedsavers Exchange and ordered 32 packages of seeds. Heirloom means seeds that people have used for hundreds of years and can reseed themselves, year after year. I was so excited reading the online catalogue, that I initially had two full beds of lettuce of my eight beds. I was getting too attached! I mean, just listen to these details on butter leaf lettuces alone:

Lettuce, Grandma Hadley’sDonated to SSE (SeedsSavers Exchange) in 1988 by Pam Andrew of Arizona. It was given to her by her 85-year-old great-aunt, Flossie Cramer, of Crawford County, IL. Flossie’s grandmother, Emma Hadley, grew the lettuce when Flossie was a child (around 1915). It was a family favorite used in a wilted lettuce salad with hot bacon dressing. The dark purple tinged leaves are buttery, crisp and slightly sweet. Butterhead, 40-50 days.

After reading that, I felt like I am at the table with Flossie, Emma and Pam, smacking my lips on the hot bacon dressing!  I can’t wait to taste the buttery, crisp and slightly sweet leaves! Or,

Lettuce, Tennis BallSmall rosettes of light green leaves measure only 7″ in diameter and form loose tender heads. Grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. According to Heirloom Vegetable Gardening by SSE member William Woys Weaver, tennis ball lettuces were often pickled in salt brine during the 17th and 18th centuries. Black-seeded. Butterhead, 50 days. ±31,000 seeds/oz.

I was initially attracted by the name because I love tennis so much, but when I read that it was grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson, that sealed the deal.

Lettuce, Grandpa Admire’s:From the family of George Admire (1822-1911) a Civil War veteran who migrated west to Putnam County, Missouri during the 1850s. Bronze-tinged leaves form large loose heads. Mild flavor, slow to bolt, even in extreme heat. Butterhead, 60 days. ±22,800 seeds/oz.

These are just three  varieties of butterleaf  lettuce! I love that the last one is “slow to bolt”. That means that lettuce grows well in cooler weather, but as it gets hotter it become more stalky and bitter. The center shoots up and “bolts”. Also you plant a row of lettuce each week for 4 weeks in a row and so you can harvest it slowly instead of having it all come up at once.

I cut back on my runaway lettuce shopping to one box only. I said good-bye to four  varieties I had become supremely  attached to. So two grow boxes of heirloom tomatoes (1 box from seeds, the other from a nursery), two boxes of lettuce and spinach, one box of 4 varieties of cucumbers, the other three boxes will have peas, melons, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrots and eggplant. It is all an experiment from year to year.

From the Seedsavers’ website:

“We built a movement, not a seed company.”

“Since 1975, we’ve been growing, saving, and sharing heirloom seeds. Grow with us and help keep heirlooms where they belong—in our gardens and on our tables, for generations to come.’

“Our mission is to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.’

“We steward a collection of 25,000+ rare and heirloom varieties in a seed bank at our Iowa headquarters.’

Pretty cool, huh? There is a whole network of people saving these family jewels  and sending them to a seed bank in Iowa for us to use for many generations to come. I am excited that I can actually grow and eat  lettuce with such a history. These heirloom seeds have added a dimension to my garden of hyping up my anticipation even more of expectation and taste.(This is the “Grandma Hadley”)

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 10.16.05 AM

Isn’t it beautiful? Can you taste the dressing? Maybe you want to try just one variety in a plot or pot?  My next post will be my Procrastinated Proactive Pursuit for March. What do you like to plant in your garden?

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