In the Dead of Winter...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Something Green This Way Comes
Gardening does not take a holiday in the dead of winter. Your body might feel like taking a holiday. Those playoff games inside a warm home and a soft couch sure are a lot more tempting than that frozen piece of mud doubling as your half-landscaped backyard. Not much is moving out there, except for the occasional dive of a humming bird.

But plants are growing. I give you "Exhibit A" to your upper right. Exhibit A made for a tasty snack during the 49er playoff win against Green Bay. Exhibit A is growing like a weed in the Bird Back 40. Exhibit A shouldn't be growing in this particular spot because a one Bill Bird did everything in his power to kill it last summer.

Gardening Exhibit A
But Exhibit A knows far more and is far tougher than a gardening screwup like myself. It is proof positive that "you can grow this," even if you do everything within your power to "not grow this here or now."

By now, you may have recognized that green plant with the parsley-looking top growing in a very brown and frozen over area of the Bird Back 40 is, in fact, celery. It's not just one celery plant -- it's several. And it's some of the tastiest, most tender I might add, celery that we've been lucky enough to enjoy.

You may begin to ask, "what celery is this that grows so well?" Well, you may ask. My answer would be something akin to a shrug. You see, I'm really not too sure what kind of celery this is. So, we'll just call it celery and be done with it. You may also notice from the photo above that this particular patch of celery is growing OUTSIDE of -- and in FRONT of -- a raised bed.

Home Grown Celery: A Crunchy Treat
To add insult to injury, it's also got a piece of concrete covering the top of it. No matter I suppose. The celery known as "Exhibit A" is doing just fine and dandy without the benefit of a raised bed, regular irrigation or anything closely resembling good soil. There's a two-or-three inch spot between the sidewalk and that raised bed. Exhibit A has found that to be a nice home indeed.

Blame the wife that is Venus for this celery that grows so prolifically. She decided to plant celery seeds in this bed one fall several years back, and it did grow. Everything the wife plants grows. But, to be honest? We didn't like it. The celery that sprouted looked nothing like the celery you can purchase for fifty cents to a buck in your local supermarket. It was thin. Worse yet? It was tough and stringy. We ate some and let the rest of it grow until it was time to tear it out and move onto "Crop B."

You have no business here!
But the stringy celery had other plans I guess.

At some point the celery either went to seed, or one of the cats dug out a starter plant -- who knows -- maybe both happened. But, at some point, celery plants started to grow OUTSIDE the raised bed rather than inside (gardening is tough to contain). I didn't think much of it. I would cut it back with the weeds that would spring up outside the bed. A year later? I hired some guys to pour concrete on it so I could have a walkway in front of the bed. "End of Celery" I thought at the time.

The celery had other plans.

It was while I was removing a prolific number of pole beans from this raised bed last September when I suddenly realized this patch of celery that I'd abused through the years was really getting in my way. Worse yet? There were bugs on it. Last year was a particularly buggy year in my gardening world, and not just for celery. Bugs got into everything -- from pole beans to grapes and flowering bushes like roses. I don't really like spraying what I eat with insecticides anymore, even if they are deemed "safe for the garden." So I let the bugs have their share and got what was left.

Hey! This is GOOD!
But Mother Nature has her way of dealing with bugs that infest the garden. It's called cold weather. And while I was dealing with gall bladder issues during November and December, Mother Nature was delivering one frosty blow after another to the Bird Back 40.

End result? Crisp, clean, bug-free celery for our lazy football weekends. It's celery so good, that we can add it to our dinnertime soups at night, or we can just munch on it raw during game time. Does it taste better with onion dip? Of course! Everything tastes better with onion dip! That's a rule, isn't it?

But it's just another reminder that "you can grow that here." No need to buy celery, or carrots, for that matter in the local grocery store. We can dig that up outside, even in the worst of weather.

Chopped Celery for soups and side dishes
Dead of winter? It might be a tad brown outdoors at the moment. But it's not quite dead.

NOTE: The wife that is Venus claims full naming rights for the Sacramento Vegetable Gardening title of "Dead of Winter." She wanted you to know that.

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