Planting a Row for the Hungry

I spent most of the winter poring over my seed catalogs, making exhaustive lists of all the plants I wanted to grow should spring ever come, evaluating each plant’s merits, making maps of where the seeds would be planted in the yard, stripping my lists down to the bare essentials and them plumping them up with ornamentals again, and calculating the per-seed price of every packet to determine the best deal to be had from my stack of catalogs.  The usual wintertime occupation of a gardener.

When the seeds began to arrive in the mail two of the orders, both from companies in nearby Oregon: Nichols Garden Nursery and Territorial Seed Company contained free packets of seed I had not ordered which were labelled “Plant a Row for the Hungry“.   I looked at all the space I have to work with this year since we have decided to forgo wheat this time) and called the local food bank, a small-time operation open just a few days a month in a trailer around the corner from the Police Station, to confirm that they accept fresh produce.  Indeed they do — and they seemed so excited at the prospect that I became determined to plant these seeds for them.

Nonetheless, one of our many mottos is “charity begins at home”, so when I laid out the final planting plan on Sunday the crops intended for our own consumption came first in my considerations.  After careful measuring of the plowed area and taking into account a) the estimated spread of each crop at maturity b) an 18″ walkway between each single crop and c) the recommended spacing of double rows of those crops of which we had sufficient seed to double up, the results were that I could fit every damn thing I had seed for, with 6 inches to spare! 

So it is official:  we are growing ‘Nantes’ carrots and ‘Continuity’ lettuce for the local food bank.  I will probably plant all the carrots at once as I do for my own, but as the lettuce does not keep like the carrots I will plant the lettuce in one- or two-week successions so that I can bring it in throughout the summer rather than dumping an armload on them at once only to have it spoil if it isn’t taken away until the next time they are open.

But don’t hold your breath — last year’s garden was practically an all-crop failure.  It was a dearth of food.  It was pathetic.  This year we have heavily amended the soil and have sworn to practice better watering techniques . . . but we’re still gardening in a sandbox in which water and nutrients just fly through.

I’ll keep you posted.

— Amanda

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