So Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow. In Pennsylvania, 1,173 miles away.
While I have never lived in the Keystone State, I did live just north of there in upstate New York for a number of years. And given my somewhat “cloudy” memory, I don’t recall too many sunny days in winter.
Actually, during the first winter I lived in Ithaca, New York, the sun was hidden behind the gray for more than 30 days – in a row. I would have given anything, including another cloudy day where a groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, for an early spring.
However, if Durango had its own version of Groundhog Day – perhaps we could call it Marmot Day – the creature would have most likely seen its shadow, and we would have had six more weeks of winter.
But maybe not. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts Phil’s accuracy rate at about 45 percent. That’s about the same odds you get flipping a coin.
Regardless, we all know the days are getting longer, and as we inch toward March, they will be getting warmer as well. So while the ground is still not visible, we can at least take comfort in knowing that before too long (maybe two months) we could very well be seeding the first planting of cold-season crops in our garden beds.
I’m sure many of you have already received your seed catalogs or visited their websites, but now is the time to order, especially the hard-to-find varieties or those that go quickly, like potato seed pieces and asparagus crowns.
When deciding what to grow, don’t over-think it, don’t let the romance of the varietal description get in the way and, by all means, have fun. Grow something that you have never grown before, like Romanesco or kohlrabi or kai-lan (Chinese broccoli) or a new variety of an old standby, like masquerade potatoes or Mother Russia tomatoes.
But also grow what you, or your family, like to eat. Kids with finicky appetites will most likely eat snap peas, carrots and green beans, but they may shy away from spicy crops like radishes, turnips and peppers or those with unique flavor profiles such as beets, Brussels sprouts or eggplant. So don’t waste the space with produce that will only sit in the refrigerator after you harvest.
Lastly, map out your garden. For all of you who have taken a backyard food production or master gardener class from me, you know that I like my garden space organized. I like to know where I am going to plant everything in the upcoming season.
Heck, many farmers and gardeners know where they are going to plant certain crops for the next four or more seasons. If you map out your space, you will know how much seed or starts to purchase, and how many different crops you can squeeze in.
For those of you who are budding young (or old) farmers or market-gardeners, don’t forget that the Durango Farmers Market is a great place to showcase your skills.
Vendor applications can be found at www.durangofarmersmarket.com, and they also provide the option of trying the market as an incubator vendor. As long as there are slots available, you can sign up for two markets, at a cost of $40 per market. You don’t need a business license or proof of liability insurance, but you will get a great lesson in marketing (in addition to growing) and a belly full of coffee and Danishes.
Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.