Saturday, October 28, 2006

Extreme Gardening #6 Extreme Gardening #6

(Photo: c. 2006 John Carlson)

Extreme Gardening
By Sean McEntee, your vegetal correspondent

What time is it?

My grandmother had a little mnemonic device which would help her keep track of the seasons. “When the frost is on the pumpkin, that’s the time for Richard Duncan.” Only she knew what that meant, but she’d announce it and that would mean it was time to drag out the 50,000 BTU “salamander” kerosene heater and prepare the winter tomato patch.

The roar of the heater was almost deafening, and refilling it every five or six hours was an onerous chore in the depths of a January night. Wallowing through the snow to the tomato patch, we’d find the heater sitting in a pond of melted snow water, graced with an iridescent slick of gently swirling spilled kerosene. We’d work in shifts through the night, keeping the heater trained on the baby tomato plants, taking care to walk that fine line between incineration and glaciation.

When we weren’t manning the heaters through the night, we’d be hauling blocks of ice from the lake to stock the ice house for the June crop of ultra early parsnips, which needed that “kiss of frost” to develop their sugars.

Grandma knew a thing or two about gardening, and she was proud of her “open air” January tomatoes. I’d take one over a hothouse tomato any day.


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