Since none of us is likely to be going anywhere for awhile and in anticipation of possible disruptions to the food supply, I’ve decided to expand my gardening from pollinator-friendly flowers to fruits and vegetables. Part of this is practical and part is nostalgic.

The practical part ought to be obvious: We’ve all got to eat, right? I’ve swapped beer for seeds that a friend and co-author who is about to move and won’t be able to put his old stock to use where he’s going (tough to grow things in the desert, right?), ordered seeds from the amazing Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and ordered raised bed kits by Gronomics.  To work out what I’ll plant where, Mother Earth News has a great in-depth companion planting guide.

The nostalgic part relates to memories of my childhood. My family was cash-poor but land-rich. That land was deep, loamy Kansas hilltop earth, rich with nutrients deposited by the glaciers that reached as far south as northeastern Kansas. That land was charged with carbon by the aquatic life that once swam in the vast inland sea that covered that part of the country thousands of years ago. The meals we grazed on straight out of the garden while listening to Kansas City Royals baseball on the radio as the sun set were delights: English peas, green onions, strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce. That was all wonderful, nutritious, raw food, washed and chopped and served with blue cheese dressing alongside burgers, with the strawberries topping ice cream for dessert. It makes me hungry just to type this.

The deeper nostalgia has to do with my grandparents’ garden next to the garage on their farmstead south of Wichita near Clearwater. Grandma made miraculous things with the produce she raised on that plot, which was modeled on the Victory Gardens that sustained civilians on the home front during World War II. I’ve never had fresher, more delicious food than the feasts we enjoyed in their home every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. This may be my best opportunity to recapture that flavor and revive those memories.

Here are the veggie seeds (plus tomatoes) that I’ve ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds:

  • Wood’s Famous Brimmer Tomato
  • Brandywine Tomato
  • Dr. Wyche’s Yellow Tomato
  • Pantano Romanesco Tomato
  • Ground Cherry (Strawberry Husk Tomato)
  • Laxton’s Progress No. 9 Garden Pea
  • Thai Purpoe Ribbed Eggplant
  • Rosita Eggplant

To satisfy my sweet tooth (and give me something to put up that may resemble Grandma’s preserves), I ordered:

  • Tresca Strawberry
  • Honeydew Orangeflesh Melon
  • Sakata’s Sweet Melon

For flavor and to keep the bees happy:

  • Sirius Blue Sage
  • Rosemary (Rosy)
  • Lavender (Munstead Strain)
  • Anise
  • Wild Bergamot Bee Balm
  • Red Milkweed
  • Butterfly Weed

Looking at those lists, which don’t include the piles of seed envelopes full of more conventional varieties like beefsteak tomatoes, chard, kale, and Little Marvel peas that I got in the swap (some nearly 10 years old, so I’m not sure what the chances are that they’ll germinate), I’m reminded of something Mom always said: “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach, Miguelito.”

They weren’t all my first choices, because the run on seeds that the pandemic-related uncertainty has triggered in homebound workers meant that most of my first choices were out of stock. But that might actually be a good thing. If I had bought what I knew from Kansas, I might not have thought so much about which seeds would work best in the cooler, wetter Michigan summer.

I’ll be back from time to time to share what I’ve learned. I hope you’ll come back for more. Happy gardening, let’s move onward to victory over the coronavirus, and let’s all stay home and stay safe.