March 26, 2012

For gardens, and cooking, timing is everything

I made turkey and dumplings earlier this month when it still felt like winter. It is one of our favorite cold-weather meals, and it "sticks to your ribs," as the saying goes.

While I was preparing it, I was thinking about the similarities between cooking and gardening. Not just that we cook food that we grow in our gardens, raise on our farms or purchase from some of our fine local producers, but the similarities that make us good cooks or good gardeners.

Let's take my turkey and dumplings as an example of what I mean. I stew turkey drumsticks using a recipe that I learned from my mother. The ingredients I add to the pot and the timing of when I add them makes a huge difference in the finished dish.

Even more crucial is the addition of the raw-dumpling mixture to the bubbling stew. As my mother taught me, and I in turn taught my daughter, it's all about the timing.

If I am careless about the timing, what I put on the dinner table may bear no resemblance to what I had intended, and few foods are less appetizing than soggy, lumpy dumplings.

Now think about your lawn and garden.

Everything you do in your garden or with your lawn will have an effect, but it may not be the effect you want if the timing is not correct. If the weather continues to be warm and the lawns begin to green, it may be tempting to apply fertilizer. Unfortunately, that would result in more top growth at the expense of the roots. Lush, succulent growth may also attract more insects. The best time to fertilize is around Labor Day.

It is also tempting to begin working our garden soil as the weather warms, but working soil that is too wet can be very damaging to the soil structure. You won't see the damage but will likely see less than ideal results in your garden.

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