We popped over for a quick mini-visit to the community garden yesterday afternoon. I wanted to bring some kitchen scraps to add to the compost bin on our way to have lunch and run errands. We left the container at the garden with a mind to return to pick it up on our way back home and do more garden inspection.
It’s only been a few weeks since my first trip of the season to the garden and already so much has grown. Before going on I should state for the record that the reason growth is so quick in my garden is because I never, ever leave it empty. I grow a lot of edible perennials like herbs, flowers, garlic, fruit, and onions that take up residence in the plot year-round, holding down the soil and preventing erosion. It also means that even in a cold climate like Toronto we manage to get very early and very late season crops.
But I digress. Just look at the growth in just nine days! Some of the peas I planted around the trellis have emerged at least a few inches above the soil line. The gooseberry bush I planted early last fall has full leaves and lots of teeny tiny flower buds. We’re going to have a pretty reasonable first gooseberry harvest this summer!
And speaking of harvests, I made my first real harvest of the season yesterday. I took home clippings from a variety of perennial herbs (garlic chives, marjoram, oregano, sage, and thyme) in addition to handfuls of onions. Looking at a photo of the full community plot (actually the sage section is cut off) you can see that there are an awful lot of onions (some are garlic too). They are always one of the first edibles to come up in the spring and one of the last harvested in the late fall. Most of the onions are ‘Egyptian Walking’ onions (aka “Egyptian Clumping’ onions) a type that come up very early and reproduce by developing a topset of bulbs later in the season. Their name is derived from their unique growth habit; the heavy topsets literally fall over and take root in the soil, giving the impression that the onions are creeping about and reproducing themselves throughout the garden. I like to control their placement slightly by collecting the topsets in the summer, tossing them into bare spots as I harvest mature plants throughout the season. They are a particularly rich-flavored onion, reminiscent of garlic. You can eat the topsets as well as replant them, their taste even more like garlic than the mature bulbs.
We get a continuous harvest of onions throughout the growing season through this perpetual reproduction but, I’ve been itching to grow some varieties that produce larger bulbs. I bought seeds for a variety called ‘Red Torpedo’ for this purpose but was seduced by the possibility of an even earlier harvest when I came upon a bin of red onion sets for sale later yesterday afternoon. This is why I can’t make solid garden plans — I am too easily swayed to make impulsive decisions! You should see the purple fingerling potatoes I impulse-bought for planting from the local organic produce store only a few minutes prior to my run-in with the onion sets.
And so I bought a handful of red onion sets of unknown origin, which I took back and planted at the community garden. I had no plan for their placement so I basically pulled out a few bunches of mature ‘Egyptian Walking’ onions and replaced them with the new sets. They say the rough and tough cultivation of onion sets make them more prone to disease and a little risky to grow, but I figure the ‘Egyptian Walking’ onions can handle it and I kept them a bit of a distance away from the others to be safe.
I left the garden with my bundle of onions in hand and an overwhelming sense of pride knowing I will be supplementing our meals with them over the coming week. It was quite a shock to realize that this sense of pride doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t diminish with time. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been growing food for quite some time now, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d think it would become a commonplace part of my life but instead every new harvest, especially the first one of the year, is filled with that original sense of amazement and awe. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m so glad the growing season is back in full swing!