Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Photo courtesy Flickr

This is the time of year to get onions into the ground. Last month I faced the reality of how inconsistent I am about cultivating edible plants and posted twelve patented plastic vegetable growing bins on Craig’s List. They went to live with an earth sciences person in the foothills of the Cascades.

When I was dumping out and stacking the bins, I turned their contents onto the compost border, where thirty years of kitchen waste grow potatoes and corn salad with no supervision except to edit the potatoes to a different area now and then.

One of the bins contained shallots. It had been sitting in the hottest, driest part of the garden. I decided to get out of the vegetable business because a container of onions gasping for their lives by the front door does not inspire confidence in the author of a blog about housekeeping.

A young playwright asked Samuel Becket how to go about his business. Becket told him to “Fail” and then to, “Fail better.” In 1968, when Julia Child was making her mark in the public kitchen, her television colleague Thalassa Cruso was Making Things Grow. Cruso confided that one of the things she enjoyed most about gardening was that she got to compost her mistakes.

When the shallots first showed signs of stress last year, I decided to let them tough it out, to see what would happen. This is not a kind process, and it probably violates a Geneva convention, but it yielded vital results. The wiry little shallots lying atop mounds of pure compost are growing like mad. I seldom cut up a shallot to cook it, but they yield my favorite green-onion topping. It looks as if this year’s crop is in the bag, for less than no effort.


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