A lousy spring for impatient pessimists

If my first and middle names reflected my gardening instincts they would be Impatient—how long do these damn seeds take to pop out of the dirt?—and Pessimist—alright, so they germinated but probably a late frost, worms, rabbits or the Hand of an Angry God is going to take care of the tender shoots, so let’s not get too excited.

Except this spring, which—so far—has been perfect. We had a couple of weeks of Seattle-ish weather at the end of the year, cool, cloudy and misty, but early in February the temperatures started to rise and the ubiquitous jarrilla bushes along the roads exploded with their smelly yellow flowers. They were followed by the more elegant blooms of the huizaches which for most of the year are thorny and nasty-looking bushes, the better to keep livestock from munching on them (except for goats, which if hungry enough will eat anything short of barbed wire). Now the huizaches are dressed in frilly green foliage topped with festive yellow buttons.

As we enter March the sun hasn’t even blinked and clouds just scoot by as if on they way to a more pleasant landscape. I can’t imagine what that would be. Aside from the perpetual sunshine, temperatures drop into the fifties at night and at noon reach only the high seventies or low eighties. Humidity is low. A pessimist would have a hard time grumbling except when the wind kicks up late in the afternoon and blows the dust around.

Gardening firsts this year are asparagus, a bit scrawny but with enough shoots to sauté for a side dish. Along the asparagus Félix has row of about fifteen garlic plants and six shallots, all looking happy and perky yet hardly ready for picking. Two grapevines that we thought dead came back with the warmer temperatures, though who knows which variety the grapes will be.

All the tomatoes we had last year—Black Krim heirloom; Grapes; Early Girl; Brandywine; and a variety called Sun Gold (?) also have germinated and are well along the way. A new variety this year is Cherokee Purple, which also is doing well. There are also two varieties of pimentos, one called Cayenne which sounds ominous.

Ready to boogie: One of the tomato seedlings.

A new variety of cucumber, Lemon Cucumbers, is doing well, along with thin French beans (haricots). Something else new for us are celery and rhubarb plants; I have seen the latter around here though never for sale at the store. Finally, some Turkish strawberries we grew from seed are beginning to produce tiny fruits that unfortunately don’t taste very good.

Can’t keep Mexicans from planting chiles so Félix planted some seeds he covertly saved from last year. We have Anchos; Rojos (tiny fellows that will burn a hole in the roof of your mouth); Habaneros (ditto); Jalapeños: Serranos and Chipotles, all doing great. Last year chiles accumulated on the window sill behind the kitchen sink like small meteorites Stew would not dare touch despite the colorful and informative Cooking with Chiles book I’d bought him. It may be time for a second book.

This year we’re growing two separate crops of most everything, one in the raised beds next to the house and the other in the ten-meter-square milpa, or vegetable garden, we have at the edge of the ranch, with its own (primitive) irrigation rig.

Resurrection: Found abandoned by
the side of the road, this victim of a car
accident now flourishes. 

In the non-edible categories we planted pieces of a garambullo cactus, the multi-branch variety that look like candelabra, that someone had crashed into a mile down the road. I held no hope of any of these survivors taking root but the pessimist in me was proven wrong again. The bedraggled garambullos not only survived but amazingly, are covered with white flowers that the bees are fire-bombing.  We also planted three palo dulce trees, scraggly and ungainly, because they produce flowers the bees supposedly love.

Among the long-shots are our three olive trees, two Arbequinas (Spanish) and one Mission (from California). They been growing lustily for four years but have produced exactly three olives—one each. This spring the Mission seems to be producing tiny bunches of something: flowers that will later create actual olives? That would be novel.

The two peaches and the apricot tree are loaded with fruit though a small apple and two cherries look as scrawny and unpromising as ever.

What to do with all this stuff coming on line? I have secret plans to buy Félix a card table that we can set up at the Saturday Organic Market in town where we could sell some of our produce, much of it not available in stores. He owes me: despite all his marketing blah-blah he only sold three jars of his honey compared to the twenty-seven we sold to our friends. He’d better start selling, and not just chiles.


Bonus image: San Miguel cobble stones. 

10 thoughts on “A lousy spring for impatient pessimists

  1. I'll take any haricourts and asparagus if you have too much. I've had grapevines here for 14 years and never anything. I've stopped wishing about that. I have MORE lemons then 10 families could use. PUHLEEZ, if you want some let me know!You're iinspiring me! I also have a HUGE cactus of some kind in the back corner of the garden that is yours, if you want it……come see!


  2. Anonymous

    OK, so a little sour grapes here. First, it is still WINTER, whatever you might think. Your friends in Chicago and your reader here still have thick (and I mean THICK) layers of snow covering our yards. My friend “G” who has a birthday today, was lamenting the fact that she can't see the crocuses that she normally sees on her birthday. So stop with all this “spring” nonsense. It ain't spring yet. Second, if you really want your gardening pessimism to be given full reign, I suggest you return to Chicago and resume gardening there. In that location (along with other such northern locations) pessimism is fully rewarded, and even necessary. But in Mexico? Sheesh! Put a pencil in the ground, and next year you'll have a thriving sapling. Third. I'm so envious of your garden that I can hardly stand it. Never mind the fact that my soil is currently frozen solid to a depth of at least 18″. Last year I went to tremendous trouble to create two raised beds with fabulous soil. I mixed in vermiculite, aged compost, peat moss, and fertilizer. I dug and sifted out rocks. Then, I planted tomatoes, carrots, peppers, parsley, beets, and a couple of other things. Well, the tomato plants grew fabulously until they fruited. Then it was a race against fungus to see whether the tomatoes would ripen or the vine would die first. The carrots and beets achieved a length of 3 MM (MAX!). I got two peppers. The parsley? It was fabulous, and lasted even through a couple of frosts. If it weren't for the parsley, I probably would have ended it all, but the parsley gave me much-needed hope. I don't write this to be bitter. Just to remind you that pessimism has no place in a Mexican garden, particularly with a resourceful gardener to help. Saludos,Kim GBoston, MAWhere it's forecast to drop to 8°F tonight. P.S. You do know this is mostly tongue-in-cheek, right?


  3. Felix could market those chiles as “heirloom” since they're grown from his last harvest's seeds. Time to get aggressive and creative with the honey sales, mr felix! We're rooting for ya. Ha!


  4. Steve Cotton has left a new comment on your post “A lousy spring for impatient pessimists”: I have been tempted to play Farmer Steve in Melaque. After all, my house is surrounded by truck gardens with fruits and vegetables destined for Safeway up north. There is one major problem. I am seldom there long enough to plant seeds, let alone to tend my Voltairean garden.


  5. No reason to be bitter or fatalistic. Just concentrate on some of the advantages you have living in Boston that we don't have here, such as the BSO and all those bookstores (i.e. Barnes & Noble on Copley Sq.). All you have to do is dress like an eskimo and get there!Al


  6. I'm jealous. Here in Ohio we still have snow on the ground… although the sun is shining today and the snow is melting. After the brutally cold winter that we have had, it will be interesting to see how many of my perennials come up when spring finally arrives.


  7. Anonymous

    I'll grant you the BSO, but bookstores are disappearing at a frightening clip here too. Though that said, there is still a goodly crop of them in Harvard Square, and we have a couple of noteworthy ones in Boston too. But they are a dying breed. And I shouldn't be too quick to “grant” the BSO. It's a fantastic symphony in an amazing hall. I am indeed VERY fortunate to be able to go whenever I want. K P.S. Dress like an Eskimo, and wade through slush. This winter has been more daunting than most, so I've mostly stayed indoors and at home.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s