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Archive for March, 2012

“No spring in this part of the country ever started in February.” At least that’s what I think I wrote a few weeks back as I cautioned people not to get too giddy about the spate of warm winter weather.

Now it seems I may have to eat those words.

With the cool-weather crops planted three or four days before St. Patrick’s Day this year, we’ve set a new record for earliness in the outdoor garden. Normally, a quick cold snap stops us before we go ahead with any other early planting.

But this year…. It’s been in the 80s a couple of times already in March and there’s no sign of an arctic air mass anywhere on the horizon. Apple and cherry trees are partly blossomed out (and therefore beyond hope if we do get that late freeze). Flowers are blooming. Looks like spring really did start in February this year.

So now the question is: Do I continue on the usual planting schedule or put the rest in earlier?

Normally, I’d be all about caution. But if things continue warm, there’s a good argument for putting aside our fears and getting things in the ground as quick as possible.

Some vegetables–spinach and lettuce come to mind–don’t much like hot weather. All the salad greens will go to seed when presented with temperatures in the 80s for very many days in a row. When that happens, their leaves become smaller and often, bitter. So you want to get the best out of them before it gets too warm. Even the later season spring vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli do best when temperatures can stay low and somewhat  moist for a while.

But how do you know it’s going to stay above the freezing mark? You don’t. It’s all a roll of the dice. Some people go to Vegas to get this kind of thrill. Give me garden planting season.

The week of rain has delayed things. But tomorrow, I’m going out to plant beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes and spinach. (And also Swiss chard, which I just realized I forgot when I put the first things in a week ago.) This is about a week ahead of schedule.

Other garden news:

We continue to revamp our strawberry bed. The strawberries have suffered from some crown rot the past couple of years, so we decided to move them. Mike extended the length of our garden by a couple of feet, and moved the little PVC fence and netting we had around the original. It looks real nice. I planted them today. We’ll try green beans in the spot where the strawberries used to be.

Asparagus–We’ve cut the first tender shoots, and a lot more came up while we were away during spring break. Our asparagus was near the strawberries and it, too, was afflicted with some crown rot. But we dug out the dirt and replaced it, redid the drainage and replaced the crowns. So far, all looks good.

Posted by: Roxie

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It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day and the 2012 garden season is already in full swing at our house.  All of the seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago are up and many have their first true leaves. That means it will soon be time to transplant them to more spacious individual cells. The garlic that overwintered outside is at least 6 inches tall. And Mike just finished putting up the rabbit fence, which needed big repairs this year. It’s now a lovely dark red, which is coincidentally the same color as our outbuilding.

So things look all clear for planting this week of the very first spring crops–onion bulbs, shallots, potatoes and peas.

No, we’re not out of the woods yet for cold weather. We could still have a late frost or even a couple inches of snow. It’s happened before. But all these crops are well able to withstand a little cold–as long as it doesn’t dive down into the teens. In fact, some people will swear that a little snow makes the peas sweeter, though I don’t know about the science on that.

One of our favorite crops is potatoes. Yes, I know potatoes are cheap at the store. But there’s something about the texture of newly dug potatoes that’s unlike anything else.

When we first started gardening, we went to a lot more work with potato planting than we do now. I would go get seed potatoes at the garden center, then cut them into pieces so there are a couple of sproutable “eyes” in each piece. Then I’d dust the cut ends with a little sulphur powder to guard against rot, and let them dry on newspapers. The cut ends form a sort of scar tissue that protects them a little more from bugs and disease once you get them in the ground.

But this is a lot of work. So I changed up the process. Now it’s a lot less hassle to plant potatoes. Here’s the skinny:

1. Find a garden center that will sell seed potatoes in bins so you can pick out the ones you like. This has gotten a little harder to do in recent years. Of course garden stores would prefer you overpay for a big bag of potatoes you may not use. But there are still stores out there with bins and paper bags if you look.

Yes, you could use regular grocery potatoes, but there are some risks to this. First, you have no idea what variety they sell, and as a result, you may be getting a potato better suited to Idaho than where you live. Second, the store doesn’t want them quick to sprout, so it’s possible they’ll be treated to slow down the sprouting process.

2.Choose the smallest potatoes in the bin for your starters. Be sure they have at least one eye. Usually they’re already beginning to sprout, so it’s easy to tell.

3.Just put them in the ground. No sulphur. No drying. There’s no need to cut them because they’re already small. The reason you cut a large potato up is so you don’t put too many  sprouts in the same place at once. That would be wasteful. You only need one or two eyes per planting.

And that’s it.

I should add there are all kinds of methods for planting the potatoes. You can rake up the dirt into hills, or plant and fill in old tires or even just use straw to cover them over instead of dirt. We usually just plant them in a row about 18 inches apart and cover them like anything else. But maybe this will be the year we try the tires.

Who know? But we can’t wait to get started.

Posted by: Roxie

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