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Gardening appears to be alive and well in Toledo. The Toledo Botanical Gardens Seed Swap was packed–so much so that I was detained at the door a few minutes by an attendant because there were too many people already inside. I can certainly imagine vegetable gardening being even more popular this year than last year, though I did keep hearing people saying “I want to get to the flower table, but there’s no room.”

I picked up what I wanted–two kinds of onions, more carrots (including “Olds’ Science Fiction Mix–It’s out of this world!” just because of the name; it includes Atomic Red, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White, and Solar Yellow), some parsley root and parsnips, and a couple of herbs, skullcap and Russian tarragon. I also got some greens and some extra pickling cucumbers, and Green Macerata cauliflower because why not? And I got a red canna rhizome. I’m not sure where to put it, but since I also couldn’t get near the flower table and planted no bulbs last fall, I can probably use whatever decorative plants I can get, and a rhizome sounds easy–it comes with its own insurance, so it will rely less on me, and that’s a good thing.

(Though it’s not like I have no bulbs in the yard. The daffodils are peeking up from their accustomary crowded spot. I meant to dig them up last year and I’ll probably continue to mean to dig them up this year; but it’s nice to have them where I can see them from the car in the mornings.)

This is a guest post by Holly McCarthy, who also writes about tomatoes and online courses at her website. Bulbs haven’t even entered my mind yet–I didn’t plant any, and I haven’t noticed any coming up–but they obviously have hers. E-mail her with comments at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com.

I saw this fun story in Sunday’s Orange County Register and wanted to share it with you. The dedication of this man is heartening and I thought as we all waited for spring, we could use a smile and a glimpse into the life of a man who seriously loves tulips!

According to the article, “This year, Fullerton gardener Wayne Daniels planted 2,500 tulip bulbs, 600 daffodil bulbs and other assorted spring flowers – totaling 3,200 bulbs – for what he describes, simply, as ‘the enjoyment of visitors.'”

Daniels has been doing this for almost 40 years now and is still going strong. And each year he draws a crowd. This year’s is bigger than previous years because he was mentioned on a foreign-language radio station.

The tulips get planted for others, not Daniels. He does it so those around him can better appreciate their environment. But Daniels is not getting any younger, and this may be his final year. He is 72 now and is having difficulty getting down on his knees to plant the bulbs. It is not a tradition that will go quietly and people have begun to wonder who will continue it in the future. That question remains unanswered.

“Before my mother died last year, at age 93, she still liked to tell people how I would get the kids together in our Montebello community and snitch flowers from the neighbors. Then, we’d go and sell them up the street,” Daniels said. “It gave us spending money; for 14 cents we could see a double feature at a theater in East Los Angeles.”

Daniels is a natural-born teacher and taught biology at Fullerton Union High School for 31 years, and still substitutes in the science department at Troy High School.

The tradition started in 1971, when Daniels moved to the Golden Hill neighborhood in Fullerton. He liked daffodils, and decided to include some tulips to give the yard variety. Though they are perennials in more hospitable climates, tulips do not bloom more than once in Orange County.

“This year, Daniels figures he spent $600 for bulbs purchased at Costco. That didn’t include soil boosters such as Kellogg’s Amend that, over the years, has produced a rich top soil with good drainage.”

I have finally planted those dratted broccoli seeds. No, there’s no reason it should have taken me this long. It wasn’t that hard to go find the tape (for the labels). I think what prompted it was Eric’s saying “What are these huge things growing on the counter?” and realizing that the walking onions had noticeably grown since I got them, and I was supposed to plant broccoli at approximately the same time I got them. Sigh. The bulbils are doing well, too–starting to grow their first green leaves. I hope it warms up outside before they get too big for their jugs.

However, with broccoli out of the way, snow still on the ground, and Saturday’s Seed Swap still to come, I think I’m out of material. Luckily others are not. Tomorrow I have the pleasure of hosting my first-ever guest post. I feel like a real blogger, or something. I also wrote a guest post a few weeks ago for Thomas at Happy Farming and completely forgot to mention it; I hereby do so. For someone who likes to write, I’ve been pretty scatterbrained about it lately. For someone who likes to garden, I’ve been pretty scatterbrained about it lately. But I’m hoping both of these things will change. Even adding those broccoli seeds to those little containers of soil and patting them down reminded me of the things I love about gardening, and how much it’s worth it to get out of my chair and go do it.

There’s a pomegranate in the fridge that I must remember to open and eat. I did this last year, you know…bought one last pomegranate around the holidays and never quite got around to opening it, and eventually threw it away in, um, the next fall, I think. It was still okay, just shriveled, but I didn’t want to eat it. I’ve been obsessively eating oranges and grapefruit for months now, so some variety would be nice.

I made bagels today. They need either a little more salt or a little more honey (I’m not sure which), but otherwise they turned out astonishingly well. Who knew bagels were so easy to make? It’s the boiling step that intimidated me,  but I read a The Fresh Loaf account and recipe and was emboldened to try it. I made some modifications and mixed up my own “everything” topping to put on it, and I’m more convinced than ever that I need to work on growing seeds for cooking with. Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds…plus onion and garlic, and some salt, and I’ve got my own savory bagel mix. Maybe I’ll get ambitious and plant some of the seeds in my spice rack this spring. The lentils I planted last year did nicely–I never picked any, because there were only a few plants and each lentil was encased in its own pod and it just seemed like too much damned work and now I wonder how lentils can be so cheap with as much labor as they much take; but they did well, and I’ve certainly grown other seeds that can be used culinarily.

Only tangentially related to gardening: we’ve been battling mice in the kitchen for months. I spied one running across the room before Christmas; it crept into my garden tote and I put it outside and thought we were done. At Christmas it became evident there were still more. We put out glue traps and caught four; we bought twelve more glue traps and caught none, but I kept seeing the mice every once in a while, spreading from the pantry toward the stove. Today I started working on the dishes that we’ve neglected and found droppings on the counters. I swear the mice are avoiding the traps on purpose. I even put little bits of food–scraps of bread, a piece of walnut–into the middle of them, but no luck. I’m comforted that they seem to be staying in the kitchen so far (and indeed, why wouldn’t they?) but enraged that they’re expanding throughout it. I have a deadline of May 1 (when we’re planning on going away for a weekend) to get rid of them through traps and cleanup and sealing holes (either chivvying Eric to do the latter or figuring out how to do it myself–his lack of motivation to do anything about the mice, or other household problems, is also irritating, but that’s a different issue); if they’re not gone by then I’m going to consider poison. Between them and the rabbits, which have enlarged their warren over the winter to the point where I can’t think about planting seedlings in the vegetable garden this spring until I’ve done some serious filling and maybe shooting, I’m not feeling very kindly toward the rodent family these days.

It sure doesn’t feel like it’s been a week since I last wrote here. How are the days slipping by so fast when winter feels like it’s lasted forever? It’s raining now, which is a marked improvement on the snow, though I’ll probably feel differently when the fall comes around again. It’s not really warm (or dry) enough to start doing things in the yard again, but it’s not-cold enough that I’m tempted.

I did not get my broccoli planted, though only for the want of tape and a decent plumbing system–a lot of the weekend was taken up with figuring out how our house’s waterpipes were connected and how on earth to get to the leaky spigot in the herb garden to replace it.  I didn’t get my plant rack inside either, though I think that was just laziness–not wanting to rip the dead plastic cover off and bring it inside and wipe it down. Laziness is a key characteristic of my gardening style, so this really isn’t a big surprise.

I did get the garlic bulbils and the walking onions into apple cider jugs and they seem to be doing well; the onions are standing tall and the garlic jugs are peppered with slender white spears, a lot that weren’t there a few days ago. I want to put them outside, but since they’ve been coddled all winter (well, as coddled as one can be in a moldy plastic bag) I don’t want to shock them, so I think I’m just going to have to suffer without my counter space for a while.

While investigating the leaky spigot I did determine that both the oregano and the thyme have survived (hurrah!), and that the wormwood and lemon balm seem to have enjoyed the winter. There are a few leftover scallions that I didn’t pick before the snow came, and I’ll probably leave them for seed at this point. I’m not sure whether the kale made it or not, but it’s the dwarf Scotch Blue Curled Vates whatever it’s called, which was my least favorite last year (though by no means bad), so I’ll probably pull it out regardless. I’m going to need that space.

I updated my seed spreadsheet and reluctantly decided that I’m not going to order any seeds this year. I might buy a packet of onion seeds if I don’t get any at the Seed Swap, but otherwise there’s nothing I really need that I can’t supply from my own stores. I’m pretty sure this is exactly the point of seed saving, but it makes me kind of sad anyhow. (Notably, having enough seeds would not have stopped me from ordering more if I weren’t under budget constraints. Onions we use, but motherwort and Lemon Drop peppers we probably won’t, significantly, so I can’t justify buying them.)

This week: plant those broccoli seeds already, decide which seeds I’m planting and which I’m not and draw up my planting schedule. Last year’s is still up on my wall (and the sidebar), which helps, but I need to adjust a few things and add some species. And I can’t properly chastise myself for planting late if I don’t know exactly when I’m supposed to plant.

I started going through my seed box to update my spreadsheet of what I have, preparatory to figuring out what I can possibly plant, and made a most distressing discovery. My Georgian Crystal garlic bulbils have  molded. This is either because of or coincident to the fact they also started sprouting roots. I knew I should have planted them in the fall–I meant to, but I forgot, and even the regular garlic went in late. Is it too late for these guys? I’ll get a pot and see. At least now I know it’s not a good idea to overwinter bulbils in a box.

I roasted the last of the French Fingerling and some of the All-Blue potatoes for dinner the other day. (It’s not that there were so many that they’ve lasted through the winter; it’s just that I didn’t feel up to washing so many tiny spuds until recently.) They both showed their age, the French Fingerlings in softness/wrinkliness and the All-Blues in sprouts, but they were  both tasty. I was surprised the All-Blues were so firm. They weren’t badly gone to sprouting, but I should use them up soon–though there’s a particularly fine one I should probably save for planting. I wonder how the ones I kept for planting in the fridge are doing.

We’ve been having a thaw–it’s not going to last, but it’s lovely while it’s here; I took a long walk yesterday for the first time since fall. I can see our leaf-covered backyard again; I can see the remains of the kale and the green onions…I can see the leeks looking pretty darn sprightly. I haven’t pulled one, but I ought to, to see if they actually made it through the winter. I think I see some low-lying greenery in the herb garden that might be thyme or might be oregano, though I haven’t gone out to verify. I’ll be pleased with either one.

I’ve been intending to write more, but not doing it. I’m not sure what I’ve been doing instead–reading a lot, and goofing off a lot. This week planning the garden absolutely must go on my list–also sending out a seed trade. This weekend I hope to discuss seed orders with Carol (yes?) and start broccoli, and in two weekends I plan to attend the Toledo Botanical Garden Seed Swap. And then it’s off to the races. I’m not in shape for a race, but luckily this one starts slow, and I know I won last year, which helps.

It’s been a hard winter for my houseplants, I’m afraid. Cold and dark and I’ve forgotten to water them as much as I should. The peace lily is stressed anyway–too much in too small a pot–and both of my huckleberry starts are dead. So is the oregano sprig, which saddens me since the one outside almost certainly didn’t make it so I’ll have to replace it in the spring. I’d been looking forward to immortalizing it through cuttings every winter. The the two pomegranates are doing well, and so is the stevia, happily. The papyrus is still alive, which never fails to amaze Eric when he notices (though it definitely needs some attention; its new shoots are kind of trying to walk out of the pot by growing its base stem sideways.) And the wandering jew, which is impossible to kill anyway. I gave it a severe haircut a few weeks ago but it’s already grown again to the point where it brushes my head when I sit below it to put my shoes on. I’m not sure I watered it since the haircut, either.

Since seed-starting is coming up and my plant window is already full, I’m going to have to brush off and bring in the greenhouse rack pretty soon. (Isn’t that what I did last year? Last year I didn’t have these starts and things on the window–I know they’re dead but I can’t bear to throw them out yet. Maybe when it’s seed time.) I have a bag of potting soil on the back porch, where it’s been patiently waiting all winter. I do not have as much newspaper as I’d like. And I haven’t ordered seeds, but the things I’m going to start February 15 don’t need ordering anyway. So I think I’ll be all right. And I’ll have time to try to get back in the habit of watering things.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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