Spring is almost here! Maybe not in Punxsutawney — where the famous groundhog saw his shadow this morning, predicting 6 more weeks of winter — but I’m in California, and my omen is this: when people start asking me gardening questions, spring is near.
Groundhogs aside, February 2nd is officially bean-planting day. According to an old English proverb:
Candlemas day, stick beans in the clay;
throw candle and candle-stick away.
Today, you see, is Candlemas, which is also the mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox — funny how often Christian holidays seem to coincide with pagan ones — so by now it should be a) light enough that you don’t need candles anymore, and b) warm enough to plant beans and other cold-weather crops. Or at least it was in the area where they came up with that particular proverb.
Though I usually stick things in the dirt and see what happens, I actually checked my Golden Gate Gardening and Western Garden Book of Edibles to see what they say. It turns out that beans don’t actually germinate well if the soil is cooler than 60°. We’ve had an absurdly warm January, but it’s not quite that warm, so I’ll wait a few weeks.
Instead, I’ve been pruning the trees and transplanting bare-root strawberries and raspberries from Berkeley Hort. If you’re walking past, check out the berry patch that used to be my front lawn. See all those dead-looking brown sticks? Those are the raspberry canes — they’ll start leafing out once it warms up.
Locals who want more immediate gratification can buy transplants at the nurseries; they’ve got all kinds of cold-weather seedlings right now. Try some new type of winter green; there are about a million varieties of kale and collards, plus spinach, lettuce, and more. (Not sure what to do with them? I strongly recommend Mark Bittman’s Leafy Greens cookbook.)
While you’re there, go ahead and pick up a packet of beet seeds, and one of carrots; it’s warm enough to plant those now. Mine aren’t in yet: most of the things in my vegetable beds are from last fall’s plantings. But my neighbor planted his beets and carrots two weeks ago and they’re doing great. Time for me to catch up.
Have you started your garden yet? What are you planting?
Disclosure: The book titles are Amazon affiliate links. If you click them and then buy the books (or anything else), I’ll get a small referral fee, which helps to keep the lights on around here. Only use those if you’re going to buy them at Amazon anyway. Otherwise, wander out to your local independent bookstore. Take your kids, and if they get lost in a book and don’t want to leave without finishing or buying it, be proud and indulge them.
The link to Berkeley Horticultural Nursery isn’t an affiliate link, and I’m not associated with them; they’re just one of the many awesome local businesses that make this area such a wonderful place to live. And they do have a pretty phenomenal selection of bare-root trees and berries right now.