Entering into the last full week of February, I consider the Winter to be about 2/3’rds complete when March rolls around. It isn’t, really, it just helps to pretend it is. We all know that it’s possible to get freezing temperatures, heavy snowfalls and ice storms clear through till May and sometimes beyond here in Northwestern Pennsylvania. But after staring dumbly out my frosted windows for the past two months, I’m ready to break out and begin enjoying Spring!
I have perused my seed catalogs and made my selections. The orders are on the way, ensuring that next year I’ll be getting twice the number of catalogs as this year. Everybody company likes an easy touch! Several years ago, my wife presented me with an excellent Valentine’s gift. It’s a growing rack complete with 3-five-foot shelves suspended beneath growing lights. I placed it in the warmest room in the house and also got some electric growing mats to place under the trays of potting soil as seeds germinate best if kept around 70°.
Last year, I had a bumper crop of six different hot pepper varieties which made their way into our meat department for beef sticks, jerky, bologna and sausages. The only problem was that in my haste to get to where I had seedlings sprouting, I started them about a month too early – in late January. By the middle of May, I was planting 24-inch-high pepper plants, many with peppers already on them. They were so big and gangly that I had to stake up virtually every plant! I resolved to avoid temptation and delay planting this year until the end of February. This is the week!
My affinity for gardening was handed down to me by my father, Sam Costa, Sr. As he got older, he wasn’t able to run the rototiller, get up and down off his knees easily and do pretty much all the things he wanted to do on his own. In 1975 we had purchased a small 6’x8’ hobby greenhouse for him which only whetted his appetite for his favorite pastime. In his later years, he relied upon me to do all the “chores” around the house, including but not limited to gardening. Since I’m rather an obstinate fellow, the more I’m told that I have to do something, the less I enjoy it. It wasn’t until his passing in the spring of 1997 that I found gardening connected me to his memory somehow. I’ve been an annual believer ever since.
I only have about 250 square feet of garden space and I routinely plant way more varieties than I have room for. You might think that my garden often looks “cramped” and you’d be right. You might ask yourself, “why bother, when you can just walk through the produce department and pick out what you want?” To which I and other back-yard gardeners would reply, “it’s more about the journey than the destination”! Nothing quite like walking out in the back yard and picking fresh cucumbers for a salad or pole beans for dinner. At least for me and my family, it makes it all worth the effort.