At this time of year the small local nurseries, the ones that grow their own plants organically, offer greater variety, and go digging for long-forgotten heirloom veggies, keep their doors hermetically shut against people like me.
Because the vegetable beds are close to the south-facing wall of the house, my garden microclimate is at least one zone warmer than the rest of Vermont. As a result, every spring I start my search for cool-season transplants–broccoli, lettuce, kale–quite a bit earlier than other gardeners. But I know that if I call a local nursery inquiring about lettuce or broccoli before late April, I\’ll get a laugh and a lecture about Vermont weather.
So instead I go trolling in the big stores, the ones that don\’t care about weather or the difference between cool- and warm-season vegetables. These stores are few and far between, and I\’m usually thankful for their scarcity, except when I want to buy something. Today I drove 45 minutes to Home Depot. A couple of years ago, in late March, I was crossing their parking lot in a severe blizzard when I encountered racks upon racks of vegetable transplants: broccoli, lettuce, kale, spinach, chard. Appallingly, there were also eggplants, tomatoes and peppers, dying by the dozen before my very eyes.
This year, although there was no blizzard, Home Depot was sheltering its veggies indoors. There was red and green lettuce, which I bought, but no broccoli or kale. And, again, there were racks full of tomatoes and peppers, which even a daredevil gardener such as I would not dream of putting outside before Memorial Day. The best thing about my Home Depot experience was that their transplants are now in peat containers, so you don\’t have to deal with those unrecyclable black plastic pots. Also, I found some stevia–that magically sweet herb. I\’ll have to search the web for how to grow it, and how to use it.
On my way to another errand I passed by Walmart. I wasn\’t sure that Walmart even believes in live plants, but I decided to give it a try. I always get depressed when I walk into that store. Everything seems so gray–the walls, the floor, even the light. And the people in it are gray too–gray skin, gray hair, gray looks in their eyes. And the average adult weight of the customers, even in this least obese of states, seems to be around 200 lbs.
But there, in a cramped gray room at the back of the store, were all the cool season veggies one could possibly want: lettuce, broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts–even arugula, which I had only grown from seed before. All looking sprightly and not a bit gray.
Back home, I let the little veggies spend the afternoon on the patio, but brought them in for the night and gave them showers at the kitchen sink. Tomorrow morning, first thing, they will go into the ground. And in a couple of weeks, thanks to the big stores, we\’ll be eating salad for dinner.