Tag Archives: planting calendar

Sow it begins

The first seed starts of the year: celery.  They’re even a little bit late.

Celery is so delicate.  The teeny starts can either wilt in seconds without water, or fry in the sun, fragile until they’re a rather ripe old age.  Two years running I’ve managed to roast the baby celeries when they were the size of threads, and restarting takes forever – such long germination – but I got a late celery crop nonetheless and it was decent.  Amazing that a big clump of celery grows from one pinhead seed.

Next up, onions.

Seed companies don’t want you to know this one fact!

I’m feeling smug about my seeds.

My collection of seeds is all organized.  That should last until, oh, about April, if I’m lucky.  They’ll be all muddy and confused when the time comes.  Only right now I can feel smug.

I’ve got all my seeds grouped into baggies, which handily hold seed packs new and partial, and all the other odd sizes of envelopes which accumulate with saved seeds and old seeds. Today is bean planting day?  Grab the bean bag, and then I can strew around my different types of bean packets and still have the fun of “ok, here I think I’ll put some yellow beans…maybe I’ll see if any of these from 2011 germinate over here…”  I can’t micro plan too much.

Aside: mind blowing new information of 2017! 

Seeds generally have a shelf life of two years in normal storage conditions, right?  Right?   NO!  Some seeds actually become more likely to germinate the longer you save them!!!   You can bet seed companies don’t want to hear that.

I have to say my experience bears this out.  I was tracking germination rates on my old seed packets- and I’m willing to admit that I have seeds that go back to 2003 – say in 2016 I got 1 out of 3 germination on whatever tomato from these old seeds, to compensate, I put in three seeds per cell the next year.  BOOM, all of them germinate.  For a number of seeds across species (and I’m often trying old seeds because of course I want to use them up), my germination rates increased! They were doing the opposite of what I expected, year after year.

More experimentation is in order, but when my friend told me this revolutionary notion (she was reading a French agriculture book), I went “That explains my tomatoes! I thought I was crazy”

Yeah, I know, it's a dark picture. Least it hides the Barry Manilow album in the background.I like the ziploc method, because it translates well to grabbing and going to the garden, and can even save the paper seed packs from melting in the dew if they get left out overnight.  It’s happened.

I’ve definitely outgrown my Lee Valley seed saving binder, which is a good idea with limitations, but taking the tri-zip “pages” out of the binder makes them useful again – they’re really handy for all the oddball seeds or small amounts (like, I don’t have enough melon seeds to warrant a “melon” baggie).

My brain is worn out from doing my garden plan today.  It mostly consists of plotting the seed start and transplant dates for all that I want to grow, estimating quantities and therefore square footage, and then mapping which areas will be roots/greens/etc, based on my crop rotation.  Then I sort over my seeds and a shopping list is generated (it’s a short list).

Then all those dates get stretched out onto a calendar, so every few days there are certain seeds to start, or put out, or direct sow (and the quantity of each is indicated).  Some days (tomato day) are big days, but the work is distributed quite widely, done right, and the best part is I never think again about what is the right time to plant this or that, because I did all that thinking today.  I just look at the schedule and keep marching.

It’s not like it all turns out according to plan, but planning day is the single most important thing I’ve done to improve my gardening.  Success is many times more likely with a reasonably detailed plan of when stuff needs to be done and where it has to go.  There’s plenty of latitude for adjustment but the basic schedule is invaluable.

Also because you can’t learn everything all at once and still get outside, planning day is a chance to fill in some corners of research, as I add things I want to try this year (When do I have to start those?  Perennial/annual?  Do they reseed themselves/save seeds?  What do they like to grow with?), and adjust according to the  record of “mistakes” I note every year (Put melons out later!  Lemon balm earlier.).

This year I intend to give flowers a better shot, and also make window boxes.

I know some people just squint at the sun and sniff the breeze and go “time to plant potatoes”, but that’s not me.  In time the scheduling will probably become much more “instinctive”, but “instincts” are often habits created by practice, passively or deliberately.  Don’t get me started on habits.

Garden Plan

The garden looks a little bit like a graveyard, one total blanket of white with all the beds smooth bumps.  There are perennials, and enduring kale, under that blanket, and a million organisms living and waiting for reemergence.

It’s time to plan!  Very soon comes seed starting.   Garden planning is a big day’s work, because I’m new at it, still working out the timing and quantities and integrating conclusions made from learning experiences.

This year I’ll have a much bigger area to plant too.  Moving the greenhouse one step to the side means that 720 sq ft of premium, weed free, amended soil must be covered deliberately, by me, or else Mother Nature will cover it with maybe not my first choice of plants, just as deliberately.


First Real Garden Day

I´m going to be so sore!

We were attacking the garden today, replacing fence posts; the old ones were rotten and broken (“these should last for a year” – three years ago!).  Shaping garden beds out of the remaining areas of our fenced space.  These spots have been covered with waste silage plastic (as seen in background) for a year or more, and the earth is awesomely root-free.

In other words, digging shallow trenches.  Which immediately filled with water.  Digging that is like wet concrete, clumping and dragging on the boots and shovel and resisting being dumped out of the wheelbarrow.  Especially since I´m digging to the clay layer, which will be filled in with wood chips.  Getting that topsoil off to pile on the beds, instead of supporting weeds in the aisles.

…will look like this after an infusion of wood chips

But the bugs aren’t out yet!  So it´s all glorious.  Any day now, the bugs, the peepers, and the tree buds will all pop out at once, so it´s time to enjoy the peaceful working conditions.

Can you tell I´m really into mulch?  So nice, though, to just peel off the mulch blanket and sow.

My first planting!  Spinach, two weeks late, according to my planting calendar. I felt like I should start gardening like I mean it, so I put some brain work in in the winter planning the planting schedule for starts and direct sowing, and it sure feels good now to have a simple schedule to follow.

I mapped the garden in seven areas, for crop rotation, estimated how much of X thing I want to grow, and then calc’ed back/forward from frost date and made a calendar.  Now all I have to do is follow it.  Far less thinking.  It´s nice to not be mapping each little bed for “what was in here last year/previous two?”  Tedium.

Provided my last frost date projection (guess) of May 21 is not wildly off (actual date fluctuates between Apr 30 and Jun 1 in the last five years), the planting calendar will be a wild success.

Inside, the starts are thriving.  Again with the calendar, I shouldn’t have too-leggy tomatoes and too-late celery when it´s time to transplant out, thanks to my planned and staggered starting.  Yes, I´m just now figuring this out. 

Atlas melon sprout is pushing up a huge chunk of dirt on that tiny stem
All of them like to lift up a little dirt, but not that much!