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June 2, 2010

Hello, my name is Travis... and I'm a Reactionary Gardener.

Let me explain. Toward the end of the 1990s, I had the opportunity to work part-time for a couple years. One of the benefits of that - besides having the wonderful chance to really get involved in my young daughter's day-to-day life - was I had plenty of time to garden. My garden expanded to a fairly good size: around 50 feet by 60 feet (if you included my herb garden and various fruit plantings, it was double that). I had a blast growing anything and everything that caught my fancy. No room in the garden for that new unusual edible? No problem! Just add on another bed and plant it.

My employment situation changed in 2000, as I went back to full-time work. As some of you already know, my day job is at the University of Washington. I love my work, and I love working at UW - but it is a long way from my home. Between the hours on the job and commuting, I'm away from the house for almost 12 hours on most workdays. This cuts into my available gardening time, as you might imagine.

Now an intelligent person under those circumstances would quickly realize they no longer have time for a 3000 square foot garden... but, unfortunately, we're talking about me instead. I am too stubborn (or perhaps stupid) to downsize, which means I'm perpetually trying to take care of a large garden in maybe 25% of the time I'd realistically need to do so adequately. So, for the past ten years, I've found myself making last-minute garden preparations on a weekly basis for a good part of each year (normally by August I'm mostly caught up). If I want to sow peas on February 21, it's a safe bet I probably haven't dug out the green manure crop (or weeds, for that matter) until the weekend before - and that's if I'm lucky. Lettuce and spinach ready to go outside on March 1? Well, then, Travis will be prepping the bed by lantern light on February 28th. In short: Instead of regularly acting according to a plan, I'm routinely reacting to the calendar in near panic.

Which leads to this year.

June 1 is when I like to direct sow my most important winter Brassicas. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts need a long time to mature, and in my garden I've found this is the optimal sowing date. With some other crops you have more leeway, but that hasn't been my experience with these two. And, as you other Maritimers are already painfully aware, we've seen an exceptionally wet few weeks recently. A well prepared gardener would not have too many problems because they would have prepped the bed some time ago, or maybe they would've erected a hoophouse over the bed a few days before, giving the ground some time to dry out - but that person is not me. And, given the forecast, it's pretty clear things aren't going to improve soon... basically, once again I find myself in a bind.

I am fortunate that most Brassicas transplant well, so this Reactionary Gardener can buy some time by starting them indoors. While it's true that transplants tend to need an extra week or two to mature when compared to direct seeded plants, it's also true that seeds sown indoors generally come up significantly faster than seeds sown in the ground this time of year - so I think I'm still okay. I'll still need to clear those beds, but it can't rain forever... right?

Oh, and that reminds me - the squash and cucumber beds still aren't quite ready either. I'd better make a list...

You may ask why I'm sharing this with you. Well, I've been told that admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery. I believe there are other steps involved - as soon as I find out what those are, I'll let you know.


All contents © Travis Saling
This page was last updated November 18, 2013