Monday, February 16, 2015

 I know it's early, only mid February, but it's time to get started thinking about and planting your seedlings for this years garden. Some seeds take longer to germinate or are slower growing than others. You want to keep all your seedlings about the same size (as much as possible) on one tray, so i can keep them all 2" under the lights at all times. This is how close you want your seedlings to be. So, I start some seeds before other seeds to keep their growth rate even. In 2014 i didn't soak my parsley seeds. If you don't don't some seeds before planting they can take 3x longer to germinate. Parsley will take 3 weeks without soaking, but about 7 days if you soak the seeds overnight before planting. Celery, onions, leeks also benefit from soaking overnight before planting.

Even if you've planted seedlings for years, it's always good to keep a seedling log, I learn new things and write them down every year. It helps me do things better each year, and new stuff always comes up. Logs will help you track things, and you can refer to them the next year to refine how you're growing your seedlings. On every seed pack, or in seed catalogs, they will tell you how long a seed takes to germinate. It's always a range, i.e. 7 - 14 days. The reason for that range is depending on how warm the area is, how you planted the seedlings, the light source you're using, all of that will impact how fast or slow a seed takes to germinate. When you keep a seedling log, you are finding out how long the seeds take to germinate in your growing conditions. You can also track how fast different seeds grow, so that you can plan on when to start each different variety of seed, and give them all the best growing conditions they need.

Always pay attention to the information on seed packs and/or seed catalogs. They will give you great information on when to start your seedlings, how long they take to germinate and when to plant them outdoors. Knowing your final frost date is important. Here in New Haven CT our final frost date is May 15th. So, if a seed pack tells me to start my seeds indoors, 6 weeks before the final frost, that means i'll plant the seeds around April 1st. This information is important; while i start parsley very early, hot peppers, celery, eggplants a bit further on.. i won't start my regular tomatoes till early April. Tomato plants grow really fast and if you start them too soon they'll be leggy and the plants will be weak (though it's easy to deal with leggy tomato seedlings, more on that later).

For now, start planning your seedling plantings, keep a log.. and i'll post some more info on lights and good growing conditions soon. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Getting to be the middle of January and time to get those seed orders in! Better to order sooner than later to avoid missing out on anything you'd like to grow because the catalog you order from has sold out. If you're not bothered by having to substitute a different variety than the one you've chosen, then you have time. I order for clients as well as myself and I don't want to have to scramble trying to find winterbor kale cause the place i usually get my seeds from has sold out of it. That has happened to me a few times. Of course, there are times when that will happen anyway, but you stand a better chance of getting everything you want if you order earlier, rather than later.

I use the 3 catalogs in the top of this photo more often than any others. I get most of my seeds from Fedco, which gives you a lot of seed for the money. However, they don't carry everything I want or need. Johhny's is more expensive but they do have some good deals on onion plants, sweet potato slips among others. The catalog is also full of great information on planting, fertilizing, etc on each variety of plant. They also have great photos which are good to look at and compare when you're deciding what to buy for this coming season. Fedco is sans photos, but if you know what you want, or use another catalog to look at photos, you can then order from them and get a better deal.

I live in CT, so I try to order from places in the same area as I live. The seed and/or plants the catalogs I use sell were grown in this area (Maine to be exact), so I know they'll do well in my area. You should try to order from catalogs in the area you live, you'll get better results that way. Though, getting a catalog (such as Johnny's) which has great info and photos, can still be a good resource tool.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's December, and here in the northeast that means it's getting pretty cold especially at night. I still have lots of things going in my gardens. It's wonderful to be able to eat fresh veggies at this time of year. The photo above shows some winterbor kale, baby bok choy and barely visible on the left, swiss chard. With my mid weight row cover i can keep these vegetables going for quite awhile yet. It keeps the soil from freezing allowing me to harvest when most uncovered vegetables have died for the season. I also have row covers on my beets (for beet greens), my full size pac choi and my carrots. While carrots will over winter without protection, once the ground freezes you can't harvest them anymore. The row cover keeps the soil from freezing and allows me to harvest carrots much longer. These are all in raised beds, so the soil freezes faster than if I was gardening directly in the ground. I could harvest all winter long if i used cold frames under the row covers. Hopefully i'll be able to do that with a hoop house next year on some land my partner and I are starting to work. More on that next post.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 Living in an urban area, i have to be creative about gardening spaces. This is one of 3 garden areas i work for myself. In the above photo from left to right are; red russian kale, collards and garlic covered with straw mulch. We've had several frosts so it was time to cover the garlic. You want to wait till after a frost so that pests won't over winter in the mulch. All organic gardeners struggle with pests enough during the season, you don't want to help them with a nice cozy over wintering place. You can also see row cover hoops over the red russian kale. This type of kale can take some frosts but it's not as cold hardy as winterbor. Once the weather starts getting really cold I'll cover the row so i can keep harvesting longer.

This photo shows another view of the same garden space. In the lower left is parsley which is still fine. You can see i already have a row covered. Under the row cover are chard and carrots. Carrots can take the cold. You can even over winter your carrots in the ground with no protection and they'll be fine to harvest next early spring. You'll want to harvest the carrots as soon as the ground unfreezes though, or they'll use the energy from the root to flower and go to seed. The reason i have the carrots covered is to keep the ground from freezing so i can harvest them longer. Row covers can allow you to harvest your crops much longer than you would without them. If you have some small cold frames, and put those under row covers you could harvest most of the winter. This is why it's good to plan having fall crops a good size by the time it starts getting cold. They won't grow much during the winter, but the extra protection allows you to harvest much longer and possibly all winter long.

Monday, November 10, 2014

We've had a wonderful extended fall here in CT. Above are some of my sweet potatoes. You want to wait to harvest sweet potatoes till the vines start to die and turn black. Usually that happens with the first frost. The reason is, while the vines are still green and vibrant, they are still growing your sweet potato tubers, making them bigger. The first frost also tends to add sweetness to certain vegetables. Carrots, parsnips and collards are good examples. We had a frost here last friday night and the sweet potato vines turned black, so saturday i harvested the sweet potatoes. It was a good harvest. Got over 200 potatoes from one 30' row. Some you might want to eat right away, but a lot you'll want to save to eat over the next few months. Best way is to harvest them and lay them out in the sun for the day. Being in an urban area, if i did that, i wouldn't have any left the next day! So, next best method is to brush off as much dirt as possible, and lay them out in an airy place for a week to 10 days. Don't wash the sweet potatoes before you cure them, you are letting the skins get a bit tougher and that will protect and help keep the sweet potatoes for a longer time. Store only those potatoes that you haven't cut in 1/2 while harvesting, or have other deformities. Whole, blemish free potatoes will store the best. Store them at around 55 to 60 degrees with about 85% humidity. They will keep for you all winter long this way. If you don't have a cellar you can store them in, try keeping them in the fridge.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I usually plant my garlic in the middle of october. We've been having some nice warm weather lately so I put off planting for a week or so. You want to plant your garlic so it has time to acclimate but not so much time that it starts to grow too much. If it starts to put out leaves, it will have to stop when the weather gets too cold and the ground freezes. That takes energy from the garlic clove that it doesn't need to be expending now, as it will have to do that in spring.

Garlic is a heavy feeder, so I enrich the soil with composted manure or compost before i plant. Separate the garlic head into individual cloves. Plant the cloves (pointy end up) 4" deep, 4-6" apart and 6-8" between the rows. You should cover your garlic with mulch for the winter. 6-10" of mulch for hard neck garlic, and 10-12" for soft neck garlic. Don't put the mulch on till after the first frost, if you put it on too early, it will give overwintering insects a nice warm home for the winter, and give them a jump on your crops next season.

Most garlic types are winter hardy, though some varieties of soft necks only do well in warm climates. The reason you add the mulch is to prevent the bulbs from heaving out of the ground. When the temps start to drop, but warm up during the day, or in spring when it's getting warm but then gets cold again, the bulbs can heave themselves out of the ground. The mulch keeps the soil temp from fluctuating too much and keeps the garlic in the ground.

Lots of garden crops are still doing fine, as we haven't had a frost yet. The heat lovers though aren't very happy. It's not warm enough for them, and the sun is getting weaker than they like as well. My cayenne pepper plants have a lot of large green peppers on them. A good way to ripen some of them up is to pull the entire plant, dust off the root ball, then bring inside and hang upside down in an airy place. A good number of the peppers will ripen up for you that way. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

 My fall crops are doing nicely. The above photo is of broccoli i started indoors back on June 20th. I transplanted them to the garden a few weeks ago once another crop was finished. They're growing well (despite the lack of rain here). These will get a row cover when the weather starts getting too cold.
 This next photo is of pac choi and the smaller stuff is baby bok choy. I direct seeded these as they grow fairly quickly and will develop before the weather gets too cool. Once it does cool down i'll put a row cover over them so i'll be able to harvest them longer. It's good to have several types of row covers to help you out through the season. Light floating row covers can help protect your crops from pests or warm things up earlier so you can start planting. Heavier weight row covers can protect your crops once the weather starts getting cold. This allows you to plant later and harvest longer.
The above photo is of another direct seeded crop of yukina savoy. It's an asian leaf green, wonderful in stir fries. It grows quickly and doesn't mind some cold weather, though when it starts to get too cold i'll put a heavy weight row cover on it and be able to harvest well into the winter. Next post i'll talk about the ways you can protect crops and lengthen your harvest even through the winter.