These are mind-boggling days, where change comes by the hour and uncertainty overwhelms the normal. There is panic, stupidity, fear, and some wonderful acts of kindness. Our daily routine is totally disrupted, our sense of isolation grows. Our worry for family and friends, close and far permeates our thoughts. Amid all this, Mother Nature continues at her own pace. The wrinkly brown, silky white, or shiny black seeds planted weeks or days ago do their magical transformation to bits of green and then steadily grow upward. What a calming sight!
With all that’s been going on, I’d delayed some of the transplanting, but yesterday was “catch-up” day. I began with the alliums, knowing that a) they can be one of the earliest crops moved to the cool greenhouse b) we are out of onions, so green onions from the potager asap will be welcome and c) they grow roots at an amazing rate and transplanting them sooner is always better than later! The first alliums seeded were the cipollini shown above. We love them grilled, because their high sugar content renders them lovely and delicious. Marinated, they are a staple on antipasto trays all winter. The variety we like best is “Bianca di Maggio,” but “Gold Coin” are nice as well.
Naturally, my delay in transplanting was unwise, because the alliums grow roots VERY quickly, resulting in tangles and breakage unless one is very patient separating them. In the above photo, this little cipollini plant is 2″ tall, but has a root 13″ long! Needless to say, it will fill the 2″x2″ compartment quickly, but fortunately they will be one of the first crops to be transplanted into the potager beds and be able to stretch out soon. Having seen the cipollini, the transplanting continued through all the rest of the onions, so they are now all in their own little compartments.
So, my message to any new gardeners is, do not let the small size of the onion seedling fool you. Transplant them early to avoid damaging their roots, or if you have space, seed them directly into individual pots, realizing that if you start them in very tiny cells or egg shell halves) they will require up-potting early on. Keep a close watch on their root systems and move them to larger pots as needed.
I am grateful each hour that my potager is right outside my door, as some of the allotmenteers in Europe can not even leave their homes to tend their plots or harvest their asparagus, despite the need for fresh food and exercise. My daughter in Germany reports that the asparagus and rhubarb farmers there are worried because their normal work force cannot come to harvest. I’m hoping since the schools are closed, maybe some of the local high school and college students can come help, (keeping over 10′ apart as they work, of course!) This world-wide crisis will bring new challenges to authorities, companies, and every individual on a daily basis. Keep calm, garden as much as you can, cherish your families, and find some joy (however small) in each day…a bird’s song, a blossom, sunrise, well-written book, a new recipe, music, a telephone call with a friend, a cup of tea…blessings are everywhere, but we often over-look them. Now is the time to pay attention to all…and not just allium roots!