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New Year's Beets

Last summer I decided to try growing tomatoes on our crowded front porch. I squeezed in three 3-gallon pots, added the rusty metal tomato cages I hadn't used in years. (One had lost a few wires, but Ward fixed it with an addition from a coat hanger.)

The plants didn't produce much fruit — probably not enough sun. Though I think of the the porch as facing south, in fact one leg of it faces southeast, the other southwest; and the house shades it more than I realized. (Often I get a notion of how much sun a spot gets, only to learn differently from plants I try there. I'd like to find some kind of garden photosensor-timer, to measure hours of direct sun.)

But I hope the problem was mainly the dim, cloudy weather we had most of last summer.
It was so much easier to take care of the plants on the porch than out back. I could just step out of the kitchen to water them, no carrying heavy watering cans or dragging hoses across the yard. And no animals bothered them, with people always coming and going.

When a friend gave me beets from her garden, I knew what I wanted to try next. I enjoy beets, but I love beet greens, and in stores hardly ever find any that aren't ragged and slimy. Not only were these lush and crisp, they were a gorgeous deep burgundy. The variety is 'Bull's Blood'.

I found them available from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine (877-564-6697 or But after browsing their catalog, I decided in favor of green-leafed 'Big Top', for the biggest, earliest greens.

Beets prefer full sun, but will tolerate some shade. At least I won't have the problem I did with the tomatoes. If I could have eaten the tomato leaves, I would have had plenty! (Unfortunately all parts of the tomato plant are poisonous except for the fruit. However I did enjoy the aromatic smell of the leaves, inhaling deeply every time I pinched back the foliage to direct the plants' energy into fruit.)

My back asks, can I get beets up high, like the tomatoes? Perhaps I could scavenge some cement blocks from the old, overgrown compost bin.... Perhaps the gray blocks would disappear into the background under the beauty of the plants....

My New Year's resolution: order the seeds, get this dreaming materialized.

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 30 December 2005

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