Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lazy Housewife Ronco Gardening

I have added another permanent plant to my garden, one that requires virtually no care or replanting, only an undisturbed place in the garden. First it was bunching onions. Then, to my surprise, I found out that overgrown leeks come up with baby plants all around, so when the leek is harvested (for soup!?) the tiny plants can be replanted. I have a couple of pole bean varieties that come up year after year. I just cut them down for the season and throw some mulch on top.
My scheme was to discover and promote plants that re-seed themselves like crazy, ensuring a steady supply year after year with little effort. The list started with celery, and then branched out with Italian parsley, leeks, amaranth, chard, kale, and my new favorite, fennel.
My fennel experiment last fall turned out so well that I tried to sneak another crop in this spring. Both batches of seeds took forever to germinate, and the plants struggled in the beginning, but I decided that the taste was worth it. The spring plants didn't do too well. They took forever to get going and then went to seed with the heat. I kept them around anyway, enjoying the tasty seeds and watching the birds devour them. One morning, the cat was going bonkers, so I looked out the window and saw about 20 flitty birds perched on a single fennel plant, eating all the seeds in a few moments.
Eventually the tomatoes overtook the fennel plot and I couldn't get through the thicket anyway, so I just left it. This fall, while cleaning, I discovered about a million fennel seedlings. After transplanting tons of the seedlings, I discovered that plenty of fennel bulbs were growing out of the roots of the plants I had harvested earlier. And, like the bunching onions and chard before, seed-saving and even transplanting is a waste of time if the plant just won't die and just won't quit. I get to eat fennel every day, tons of these little bulblets, much more sweet and tender than the best of last year's harvests.
A neighbor commented that my gardens had character, but I think that one of them is just overgrown. If I squint hard enough, there is a large area that looks like a lawn. Look closely and visitors will see that it is just a field of Italian parsley and fennel seedlings, mowed down by munching rodents.
I have decided that the many of our favorite foods through the years are just noxious weeds that also happen to be tasty. Ronco-set-it-and-forget-it growing, self-sowing, self-mowing. An elegant kind of laziness. This gives me more time this winter to curl up with a hot mug of herb tea and browse through all the seed catalogs.

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