Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tweaking the schedule

I'm wondering whether I need to rethink these gardeners' holidays that I've been trying to celebrate throughout this year. The problem is that it seems like the most significant dates in a gardeners' calendar don't necessarily coincide with the solstices and equinoxes and points in between; they come whenever they come. The year started off reasonably well, because the first seedlings I started (the parsley) went in on January 29, which was close enough to February 2 for me to dub that the Festival of Seeds. But the first seeds to get planted directly in the ground (the snow peas) went in on March 31, a full 11 days after the spring equinox. And our first harvest of the year came less than two weeks after that. Admittedly, it wasn't much of a harvest—only two spears of asparagus, which we put into an omelet with some mushrooms—but still, the first meal of the season to be made with home-grown food is a pretty momentous event in a gardeners' calendar, and it came smack-dab in between the spring equinox and May Day.

So there are a couple of different ways I could go at this point. One is to scrap the whole notion of tying the gardeners' holidays to the "wheel of the year," and instead just celebrate our gardening milestones whenever they fall: First Planting, First Picking, the Opening of Tomato Season, and so on. But the problem with that is, they aren't really holidays any longer. They're still special occasions, but not the kind that you can plan celebrations around.

The other approach is to keep the schedule of holidays—February 2, March 20, May 1, and on from there—but drop the idea of tying them to specific events in the gardening calendar. After all, when you're keeping a garden, there's always something going on at any given time of year, so instead of trying to stretch and declare March 20 to be Winter Sowing Day, I could just say something like, "As of today, March 20, I have parsley, celery, and leek seedlings; the Sun Gold tomatoes I started last weekend aren't up yet, and the rest of the tomatoes don't go in until this weekend." But the problem with that is that then my "holiday" wouldn't be much of an occasion. Sure, there's stuff going on, but nothing really momentous.

I think the best compromise between the two may be to fudge a bit. I could either tweak the dates to bring them closer to events of significance in the gardening calendar, or tweak the timing of the events to bring them closer to the preselected dates. For instance, I probably could have gotten away with planting my peas on March 20 instead of March 31; my schedule said to do it seven weeks before the last frost date (which I estimated at May 12), but the seed packet actually says "as soon as ground can be worked," and I'm sure the ground was workable that early.

So my tentative plan for the rest of the holidays on the wheel of the year is to tie them to whatever significant event on the gardening calendar falls closest to them—whether it exactly coincides or not. For example, I could declare May 1 to be the Festival of Asparagus—though not the Dawning of the Age of Asparagus, since as I've mentioned, we've harvested our first few spears already. But according to this local produce chart, the asparagus season should be reaching its peak right about then, and the rhubarb season will probably be just starting around the same time. So either of those might work. I guess we'll just wait and see what comes up when under real-world conditions.
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