By: Karen Cohen
I’m a transplant, are you? Or are you native born? If we direct our discussion to gardening, transplants are plants started elsewhere other than their eventual grounding place. Transplants don’t always “take” to the place they are moved to. Sometimes they disappear all together and sometimes they come back, unexpectedly. We did.
In another month, maybe less, transplants will be ready to go into your garden space. The weather and soil temperatures will be a little warmer and won’t shock the transplants. Living in New Jersey, our seasons were similar to here in Greenbrier County, maybe just a tad warmer there. We used to put in peas on St. Patty’s Day, that was our marker. Here, maybe in a week or two we can plant peas from seed directly in the ground.
Things we are transplanting right now are the brassica family of veggies: broccoli, cabbages, bok choy, mustard greens, cauliflower, kale and turnips. They can take the temperature dips at night and do well with just a light blanket of remay cloth or just a sheet. Fresh, fluffy snow also acts as an insulator because it stays around 32 degrees and can trap air pockets underneath it. It is beneficial for plants because it also melts as the degrees climb and slowly waters everything.
Lettuces can be started indoors and then transplanted into the garden; this gives them a jump on the season. They don’t mind the cold either and arugula prefers cool temps. You will notice our local garden departments have all the cold hardy plants out and ready to take home. Be aware though, not everything sold right now is cold hardy. I planted two berry bushes I recently purchased and when our temps fell to 17, they froze to death. Maybe they will resurrect but I will buy some new ones and try again.
I can’t help but dig deeper into the metaphor of transplants and what that word means.
Think of what your world would be like if you didn’t experience things that were transplanted? We wouldn’t have tomatoes; these originated from the Andes. Our summertime favorite food is corn. Corn was selectively bred in Mexico about nine thousand years ago. It was an act of pure generosity when the natives in America offered corn, hides, and their knowledge of plants, to the settlers who were transplanting here from a foreign place. Compared to the harsh climate of England, for example, the Americas appeared to be paradise.
Transplants can help or hurt a place. Certain species of plants brought into new regions by humans, sometimes unintentionally, can upset the balance of growth. Water hyacinths, an aquatic, floating plant, came from South America on boats. These can be destructive when they clog up pipes and ponds. But they also produce lovely flowers and if planted in baskets in ponds, can be useful. India, for example, ferments this quick renewable source for ethanol.
Here’s a list of some of the best transplants from Europe: donkeys, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and bees! Avocados and roses! How could Americans live without any or all of these? What happened is that humans have the innate ability to adapt. By trying something new, like bareback riding on a horse or sampling a baseball size, green seed pod, we improve our species not just as a population, but we also pass on acquired traits to the next generation. This is how we grow.
So, my conclusion is to try some new transplants this year in your garden. Early spring is usually the best time since plants are still dormant. For the first time, I am transplanting yarrow and elderberries from root stock. These were removed from other fields and given to me upon request. Both are native to North America but have been removed from many places where it is considered a weed. Elderberries have great medicinal value and though the berries must be cooked first before human consumption, they will thrive and feed scores of wildlife such as raccoons, 45 species of birds, and deer.
I’m open to trying something new, something wild, something different than what I am familiar with. Are you?
(Karen Cohen is an organic gardener and is conducting the first annual seed/plant exchange for Greenbrier County Apr. 23. Please contact via email for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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