Gardeners engage in a kind of wish-fulfilling time travel. It’s January, yes, but in our bones we can feel the world dreaming of spring.
A few weeks back, I finally got around to filling in some mini-greenhouse flats with organic soil mix and dropping some seeds in for heirloom varieties of beets, carrots, fennel, lettuces, kale, and spinach. I also found an old baggie of radish seeds, age and variety unknown, and threw some of those into flats as well.
I love beets. I revere them. I find their color and their silky mouthfeel incredibly satisfying, and get a kick out of the huge number of people who claim never to have eaten a beet. I love to brine them and store many pounds of them in my fridge for months (this makes them economical, because I buy in bulk when they’re very cheap), floating in blood red jars, then rinse them off and bake them with a little oil and a few garlic cloves for a healthy, pungent meal.
But I’ve never succeeded at growing beets in my garden. I’ve tried planting them in spring and fall and somehow they never take. This year, I’m trying something new.
As far as I know, beets aren’t supposed to be transplanted. The packaging always says as much, but since the best I’ve managed in the past is a few promising beet leaves poking up in my garden, only to disappear without a trace a few days later, I’ve planted my root crops into a fiber seed starting tray. My idea is that when it’s time to put them into the soil, I’ll just cut each cell free, then score it well to make it easy for the roots to break it if (when?) the giant beets and carrots and radishes grow beyond the confines of the starter cell.
I’ll let you know if it works, but since nothing else ever has, I think it’s worth a shot. Do you have plants that just refuse to grow, no matter how much you try to love them into existence?