Friday, April 13, 2012

Vegetable Gardening at Work

Storey's April theme is "Deeply Rooted — Celebrate Working the Land." The beginning part of this statement, "Deeply Rooted," not only applies to working the land but to all things Storey. Editors, designers, sales personnel, and other Storey employees in all departments practice, in some way, what we publish. We are knitters, crocheters, seed savers, builders, equestrians, cooks, backyard homesteaders . . . and the list goes on.

The second part of April's theme statement, "Working the Land," stands true as well. Many of us Storeyites are gardeners — experts to novices — and we love our garden vegetables. Predictable as it may be, we not only publish books about gardening and cooking with garden-fresh produce, we actually get our hands in the dirt and garden — at home, in our spare time, on our lunch break, whenever we can.

 Prepping our seedling flats for tomatoes.

Last year acquiring garden editor Carleen Madigan organized a group of Storey garden fanatics interested in seed starting and bulk-ordering seeds. We divvied up the seeds and started most of them indoors at home. The hardy or quick maturing plants we sowed directly in our gardens.

I cannot speak for the others, but most of my started-from-seed vegetables were successful. I encountered a little trouble with some of my hot peppers, strawberries, and broccoli. And there was the critter (rabbit, I think) who found snacking on my pea shoots and baby lettuce greens to be a delectable pastime . . . but that had nothing to do with my seed-starting capabilities. All in all, my success rate was about 85 percent.

Once again we bulk-ordered a large variety of seeds for our 2012 gardens (see list of seeds). And we decided to start our seedlings together, indoors, at work. Approximately once every other week, we meet at noon in the editorial conference room and start our garden vegetables. Our seedling flats reside next to bright windows and under grow lights at or near some of the garden-group members’ desks.

Ryan Gosling is keeping an eye on
our leeks and onions at Carleen's desk.

To read the caption, click here (it's pretty funny).

Carleen put up a shelf in front of her window and
propped a grow light above. Sprouting on the
top shelf are onions, leeks, broccoli, kale, and
brussels sprouts. On the lower shelf are perennial
flowers — hibiscus, cosmos, and a few others.

We began in early February with our first planting of leeks and onions. Two weeks later we planted brassicas — broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale (three varieties). On March 22 we started peppers of numerous varieties. I can only recount the pepper varieties that I chose: in the hot category — Bulgarian Carrot Chile, Ho Chi Minh, Black Hungarian, and Ancho Gigantea; bell peppers — King of the North and Chocolate Sweet.

Brassicas — kale, left; brussels sprouts, right

This Wednesday at noon we planted tomatoes, okra, eggplant, basil, husk cherries, cucumbers. A few of us also started some of our summer and winter squash. Before each garden-gathering, we all chip in and bring materials to share. For this meeting, Carleen suggested that we each bring a small flat to plant into (or buddy up and split a flat); for the squash seed starters: separate containers (yogurt cups, tofu containers, and so on), as they quickly outgrow the small cells in a regular flat; and seed-starting dirt.

On Wednesday we planted our tomato seeds.
I brought in two stacks of plastic containers (in the background)
to share with anyone who wanted to start squash.

More instruction and advice from our fearless leader Carleen:

What else should you be thinking about now?
  • Consider taking the time to peruse the seeds in the edit conference room before our next meeting, so you’ll know how much planting space you’ll need.
  • Hardening off your brassicas — this can take a week or two. You might want to start with your broccoli seedlings, as these are the most robust at this point, and give the brussels sprouts and kale a bit more time to grow under the lights. Start by putting your seedlings outside in a relatively shady area, out of the wind, during the day, and bring them indoors at night. Over the course of a week or so, gradually move them into the sun, and at the end leave them out overnight.
  • Direct-sowing peas, spinach, arugula, and other hardy greens — yum! Seeds are in the editorial conference room, as are empty seed packets for you to take them home in.
  • Of course, you can’t plant anything outdoors until you prep your beds!
  • In the next couple of weeks: potatoes will arrive, and we’ll divvy up onions, leeks, and shallots to take home and plant. 
  • I’m looking for people who’d be willing to take some alliums home to harden off, then bring them back to Storey in a week or two so that we can divide them up. Any takers? It is a responsibility; killing a whole flat of shallot seedlings won’t win you any friends.
Maybe next year we can take our gardening at work one step further and get a community/work garden!

All photographs by Mars Vilaubi.

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