Friday, April 22, 2011

Garden Update

Mother Nature is still teasing us with a few warm days here and there only to be followed with chilly temperatures. Daytime temperatures this week have been in the 50s, while nighttime temperatures have been in the 30s. However, there is the possibility that spring will come all at once and I am trying to be ready for it.

Garden accomplishments over the past week included adding compost and restringing the Square Foot Gardens (SFG).  The old cotton strings had deteriorated. Most had snapped, so I pulled the remaining strings when cleaning out the gardens and they were added to the compost bin to further decompose. It was easier to add compost and mix in without the strings getting in the way. Once the compost was worked in and leveled off, I restrung the squares with cotton string.

Topped off with compost and restrung

Some Red Barron Onion sets were planted along with some Shallots. I also began transplanting some of the onion seedlings. This resulted in the realization that I misjudged the space allocated in the garden for onions.

Onion sets and seedlings

I mass planted the seeds into individual recycled berry containers. The onion seeds were two years old, so I didn’t expect them all to germinate. But I didn’t expect the seeds to last another year either. Evidently, the two-year-old seeds were in great condition as almost all germinated and grew to healthy seedlings.

Onion seedlings under the lights in February

One of the four onion containers ready to be tranplanted

Once the onion seedlings were separated and spaced out 16 per square foot. It was apparent that they would require double the space planned. Luckily, with SFGing it is easy to adjust the squares. Some lettuce space was reduced in order to make room for the onion seedlings. Spring Lettuce will grow and produce just as well in pots.

The Celery seedlings’ roots were bursting from their soilblocks but the weather and the Self Watering Containers that they will eventually be planted in are not ready yet. So I moved the Celery into larger containers. I will begin hardening them off this weekend.

Celery potted up into larger containers

Roma Tomatoes were also potted up. Within 24-hours of seeding into the new germination station, the Roma Tomato seeds were the first to sprout. These were transferred carefully to soil blocks and continued to grow quickly. Once they reached two-inches in height and their roots appeared at the edges of the soilblocks, I decided to pot them up into larger containers. These will not be planted out for another month and they should benefit from stretching their roots a little.

Roma Tomatoes

The rest of the tomatoes and peppers were a little slower to sprout even with using the seed starting germination station. They still have plenty of time to catch up. They won't be planted out until around Memorial Day:

Tomato and Pepper seedlings in soilblocks

Lettuce seedlings joined the greens under protection. The beautiful red lettuces developed into even more brilliant colors and they are taking the cold nights in stride:

This weekend will again be partially rainy. Not much can be done with the in-ground gardens right now until they dry out more:

One of the two in ground garden plots

Luckily the raised beds drain really well and warm up quickly allowing me to get a jump on the growing season.

I am looking forward to making some progress in the garden this weekend. Plans include planting out more onion and lettuce seedlings into the raised beds, pulling out the Self Watering Containers from the shed to prepare for the new season, and making some carrot seed mats to be planted in the SFGs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Doing the Seedling Shuffle

I began hardening off some spring crops last weekend. Onions, Swiss Chard, Chinese Cabbage, Pak Choi, Spinach and Lettuce were allowed to sun themselves outside a little at a time. I like to begin this process while I am home the weekend so I can watch over the seedlings to make sure they are not becoming stressed from the sun or wind. I also make sure they are watered during the time they are out.

After several days, the seedlings are usually ready to be shuffled outside before I head into work and brought inside after dinner. I will skip a day if the weather is expected to be especially rainy or windy. A cold frame would really come in handy right now.

Swiss Chard, Pak Choi and Chinese Cabbage were bursting from their soil blocks, so they were transplanted mid-week to the garden. I am not sure how they will do as some of our nighttime temperatures are still dipping below freezing. For now, they are under protection of a makeshift hoop covered with a lightweight row cover:

Makeshift hoop covered with a lightweight row cover

From top to bottom: Swiss Chard, Chinese Cabbage, and Pak Choi

A simple dome made with two 10 foot PVC conduit has been placed over the 4x4 SFG. On very cold nights like tonight, the bed is covered with plastic for added protection. Tonight temperatures may go as low as 21 degrees F.

The SFG beds have been cleaned up and fresh compost added and worked in. They are ready for planting whenever the weather cooperates. The next few days will also remain quite chilly with nights still dipping below freezing:

Here are some pictures of the spring seedlings and other things that are growing in the garden:

Onions Enjoying the Sun



Some overwintered bunching onions

Garlic peeking up through the leaf mulch


I was planning on transplanting the spinach seedlings under the hoop this weekend. However, fluctuating temperatures must have confused them. Most of the spinach began bolting within a few days of hardening off (sigh). I will harvest the spinach and direct seed some more in the garden.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In Love With Lettuce

I have a confession to make….I am in love with lettuce.

Marvielle de Quatre Saison

I love the different colorations. textures, and the variety of leaf shapes:

Unknown Variety from a Lettuce Blend

Rouge d'Hiver

Unknown Variety from a Lettuce Blend

I also love how they combine and contrast against each other.

It is almost a shame to eat it.....almost.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Harvest Monday: April 11, 2011

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

The last of the lettuce growing under the lights was harvested this weekend:

This lettuce was seeded back in late December both to test some old seeds and grow some fresh greens. This is the last of the lettuce from that batch.

From the looks of the spring seedlings, we will not be out of lettuce for long:

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What a Difference a Week Makes

Today, I will begin hardening off the hearty spring crops to eventually be planted under some hoops:

Chinese Cabbage

Pak Choi


Swiss Chard


Last Friday, we were in the middle of yet another significant snowstorm that left 10-inches of snow behind. One week later, the snow from last week’s storm has melted along with most of the snow that remained on the ground from the winter.

The gardens are now clear, but parts of the yard still has several inches of snow:

I have Fridays off from work. I was thrilled to be able to work on cleaning up the raised beds yesterday. I am also looking forward to getting more accomplished outside today. The weather predictions for the next week look much more seasonable with most nights above freezing, but it is still unpredictable. Hopefully, I will be able to plant out some spring crops soon under protection soon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Time to Start Tomato, Pepper, and Eggplant Seeds

We woke to a winter wonderland early Friday morning with a few inches of snow clinging to the trees and covering the ground. It snowed most of the day with an accumulation of about 10-inches of heavy, wet, and sticky snow.

Even though it looks like winter outside, the calendar and my seed-starting schedule says it is time for starting my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants seeds.

A recycled a mini-muffin baking container will serve as my seed germinating station this year. Each cell is layered with a bit of damp paper towel, labeled, and seeded.

The container is placed in a warm area and will be checked each day for seed germination and to be sure the paper towels are still wet.

I mixed up some soil and prepared a tray full of soil blocks. Once seeds show signs of sprouting, I will carefully place them into the depressions in the waiting soil blocks.

We were making such progress with the remaining winter snow melt. Now the garden beds are blanketed again with another layer of snow.

It is disheartening and I have to keep reminding myself that spring snows never last long and the stronger sun and warmer weather will dissolve this new snow soon. I really hope this is our last snow of the season.