Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tackling New Problems

Hi Readers.  How many of you own a computer? I bet at least 85% of you do, and I suspect your computers cause as much grief as mine does.  When I got my first computer, I was as thrilled as a caveman who’s been rubbing two sticks together to make his fire and is suddenly given a lighter. 

At first  I burned myself a few times, especially if I tried something new, at which point the screen would start blinking “INVALID ENTRY.”  When it did it about the 6th time I was so furious I screamed “Don’t call me an invalid!  I may not be doing well, but I’m not SICK!”

We old folks with fading memories have constant problems, even when we have a copy of   “Computers for Dummies”  to help us find solutions.  Of course tackling anything new is never easy, be it a computer,  the smartphone your kids gave you last Christmas or merely the instructions for your new car’s GPS.  

Since spring has finally arrived, I thought that instead of discussing all those high tech problems,  we should talk about something simple like planting the vegetable garden. The earliest vegetables we  can plant in our New England gardens are peas. Some garden books even suggest planting them as early  as St. Patrick’s Day.   

The first and only time I tried that no little seedlings appeared above ground and after two weeks I planted another batch of seeds. Peas won’t sprout if the temperature stays in the 40s,  All of mine popped up the following week as the temperatures rose. They were pretty crowded, but happily climbed the garden fence and provided me with plenty of snacks whenever I weeded the garden.  

Let’s look at another vegetable which can be safely planted right now, radishes.  Their seeds are big enough to handle easily, they sprout in only a few days, and are ready to harvest more quickly than any other vegetable.  All that may be true, but you can still produce cherry belles with the crunch of a sponge, white icicles with the bite of a jalapeno pepper, or some black Spanish that taste like garden dirt, so I’ve composed the following manual for Radish Culture.  If followed, it should produce good results and hopefully no frustrations.

                    RADISHES FOR DUMMIES

Plant Key:  The fatter the seed and the deeper it’s planted (one and a half inches), the bigger the radish.  If you like small radishes, plant the seeds only an inch deep or even less.  The ph should be somewhere between 6 and 8. Use lots of compost or well-rotted manure, but no fresh manure.  As with all root  vegetables, a loose sandy soil is best.

Grow Key:  Plant short rows since when radishes are ripe they are ready to pick for only a few days.  If left in the ground much longer, they’ll become tough and pithy.

Enemy Key:  To avoid the problem of root maggots, dig some hardwood ashes you’ve saved from all those winter fires into the soil before planting and spread a few on top as well to repel the flies that lay root maggot eggs.  Few other marauders bother radishes, although we once had an Irish Water Spaniel who adored them, the hotter the better.  He’d pull one up, hold the leaves between his paws, and chomp down on the red root.  Then his eyes would water and he’d foam at the mouth.

Save Key:  This function key is fortunately not necessary for radishes.  It is a very  important  key, however, and if forgotten to be used, catastrophe may result such as losing a completed column two hours before a deadline. 

Cook Key:  Don’t just use radishes as an appetizer.  Try putting these crisp vegetables in stir-fry dishes, in salads, or turn them into pickles. Add some radish leaves when you’re cooking spinach.  Although radishes are not particularly rich in nutrients,  a cup contains about 26% of the vitamins one should consume each day.

If you have trouble following this manual, don’t worry.  You may have sick radishes, but no one will pop up telling you you’re an INVALID!

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