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F r i d a y,  M a r c h  2 6,  2 0 1 0
Gardening


Last October I planted "cold season" vegis. . . broccoli,cabbage, romaine, peas, carrots and herbs in an deserted old 40'x40' cow coral attached to the back of our north pasture.  I would tell my family that "I'm going to plow the back 40" and then head to my garden for an hour of tranquility.  I had never grown a real vegetable garden before and I was determined to succeed.  I read a few books on organic gardening and could not believe what fertilizers and pesticides were allowed under the organic label.  I decided to only use horse manure from Abigail's organically fed horse, poultry litter, bone, blood meal and lime.  I was happy I did not have to use any organic pesticides!  
When everything sprouted and flourished through the hard freeze, I almost couldn't believe my eyes.  Our garden was an island of green in a sea of brown.
The day the broccoli first blossomed, I started to believe I just might be a real gardener.  I think I even danced before the harvest!  After that, anyone who came to visit our home got escorted to the garden with a special tour of the "miracle broccoli".  

This spring, I am hand tilling the second half of my garden.  I have planted in seed trays the heirloom seeds I purchased from www.seedsavers.org and am waiting for the garden to be ready before I transplant them. . .  I can taste the corn already!

Heirlooms are:

1. Old - Usually associated with plants dating from the 1920's and older. It's hard to date them but some American heirlooms varieties are believed to be Pre-Columbian (meaning before Columbus came to America). Many heirloom seeds may have been carried by your ancestors across the ocean to America hundreds of years ago! There were reasons people held onto these seeds...

2. Open-pollinating - meaning if you gather seeds from your plants you'll get the same plant next year. You might not know this but if you tried to gather seeds from your garden center tomato plants and grow them the next year you wouldn't get the same plant from it. These plants are not able to reproduce and are often sterile. (Unless of course it's an heirloom) Over hundreds of years these seeds were gathered from the best plants of the harvest and continue to produce that same quality. Think of the savings!

3. High quality - The best of the heirlooms really are wonderful. They have it all. They taste wonderful, look beautiful, and are easy to grow. The vegetables and fruits you buy in the grocery store were not bred for flavor or quality - but for uniformity and ease of transporting. Which means that many pale in comparison when it comes to taste. Many people say that once you taste an heirloom vegetable you'll realize you have been eating the cardboard version of this veggie all your life. How exciting to taste flavors that mother nature intended you to have - unadulterated pleasure! 
Heirlooms were cultivated for many years to produce strong, disease fighting, climate hardy plants. In fact, some heirlooms were very locale specific - sometimes as much as a small valley with very specific weather patterns. The plants you purchase from the garden supply may tolerate your climate but they aren't complex creatures ready to thrive in your climate - but your heirlooms just may be.
I hope you feel as inspired as I do to try out these treasured plants. So, this year when planning for your garden why not try some heirlooms? You may feel you are connecting to the past and sharing a heritage with your forebears in the planting of these wonderful vegetables and fruits. (There are also heirloom status livestock - animals that are better suited for the free range instead of the factory.) You can order heirloom seeds from several different companies including the Seed Savers Exchange. This company has a free seed catalog - order one even if you're not ready to plant heirlooms - just to acquaint yourself with these treasured plants!

More seed links:
Victory Heirloom Seeds
Amishland Heirloom Seeds
Heirloom Vegetable Gardener's Source

Informative heirloom seed site: http://www.halcyon.com/tmend/heirloom.htm