This time of the year is the toughest for me. All of the preparation for the upcoming growing year is going on, but it all takes place inside. Starting seeds, waiting for them to germinate, transplanting. The ground is still too frozen to work here. A mid-March snowstorm dumped two feet of snow on us. After a winter of unusually mild temperatures, March has turned into a lion.
Our garlic and shallots were peeking out in February, so we partially uncovered them, only to have to cover them once again. We are hoping they make it through this cold snap. Overall, I’m just antsy for the new season to start in full swing. I can’t wait for it to be warm enough to work the soil, start delivering compost to the beds, and start getting new early plants into the cold frame and hoop tunnels!
This year, I need to raise and extend the wall of the garlic bed that allows us to have a level patch on the hillside to our house. I also have to finish up the project of re-painting all of the garden fences that I started last year. I wish I had one more outbuilding that I could heat slightly in the winter to complete these types of staining chores. We had big plans to put wire panels in around the upper three-sister’s garden, but the horse trailer isn’t on the road so I don’t have an easy way to get the home.
I started vegetable gardening in 2004 when we moved to Spring HIll Farm and every year I am expanding my garden as well as the variety of vegetables I grow. Now, I wished I had kept better records early on, but it is never too late to start!
In the beginning I used mostly the 6- or 9-cell seed starting plastic pots, but cleaning them up for restarting seeds was difficult as they tend to break. I used to recycle all my yoghurt and sour cream containers, but now I am using them for seed starting – all you need to do is drill a couple of holes into the bottom for proper drainage and you have a sturdy pot. I usually start 6-10 seeds in the pot and then transplant after they develop their first true leaves into individual pots. It may seem more laborious, but that way I am not wasting space when not all seeds germinate and I end up with individual cells/pots had need to be tossed out.
So this year, I am growing artichokes (Green Globe) for the first time. My garden is in zone 6 and it is too cold for artichokes to over-winter. So I have to trick them- since they are biannual vegetables which means they will flower the second year – to think this is the second year. After germination I will transfer them outside when it is still cold, but not freezing. We will see if this experiment will work out! Since the seeds are fairly big, I seed two seeds per pot (use seed starting mix only!!) and use a pencil to push them 1/4 inch deep into the soil, add a little soil to top off and then use a spray bottle (I reuse an old, rinsed Febreze pump sprayer) to wet the top layer without disturbing the seeds. Once the top of the soil is hydrated, I carefully water them until water comes out the drainage holes. I still let them sit in a tub with 1/2 inch water to help moisten the soil – seed starting mix is dry like powder and and seeds will not germinate if they are in dry soil. I highly recommend a seedling heating mat as this speeds up germination like a dream. I usually put a layer of insulating styrofoam underneath the heat mat. The temperature sensor is inserted into your seed pot and set to the desired temperature depending on the vegetable variety – I use 82 F for most of my seeds.
Besides the 8 artichoke seeds that I started today, I also started my eggplants – my standard “Diamond” and two new varieties :
“Lao Purple Stripe” and “Udumalapet” just for fun.
I’m in shape. Unfortunately that shape is a potato. So, if you had subscribed to our newsletter you would know that it is about time for all you gardeners in zone 6 to get your potatoes in the ground. At Spring Hill we are always a little anxious and end up puttin read more
The crocus are in full bloom and the daffodils have shown their green face, but they are predicting a nor’easter for this weekend. For those of you that don’t know what a nor’easter is (from Wikipedia):
A nor’easter (also northeaster; see below) is a macro-scale cyclone occurring along the upper East Coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada. The name derives from the direction of the strongest winds—as an offshore air mass rotates counter-clockwise, winds tend to blow northeast-to-southwest over the land in those regions.
It is unclear how much snow we are going to get. Originally they predicted up to 7″, but now they have downgraded it. Early spring is always frustrating, you see plants popping up in the yard, but the weather doesn’t let you do as much as you want or need to do.
Case in point, we were a little late in getting the shallots uncovered from their winter mulch.The yellow shallots suffered a little, but should recover just fine.
The fate of the grey shallots is a little more questionable. Every Fall we cover both the shallots and the garlic with a thick bed of hay to protect them for the Winter. We try to get the garlic and shallots planted around
end of Oct. beginning of Nov. (Zone 6b). Depending on the weather we have in Fall, we can sometimes see the garlic greens already poking through. The shallots love the covering through Winter, but typically don’t push through the covering in Spring leading to yellowing of the leaves. The grey shallots suffered a little more this year and we are hoping they recover.
:Back to thinking about the limitations of Spring weather. One positive point is that it forces you to take care of those Spring chores that involve being inside. Here at Spring Hill Farm, that means starting seeds. We try to save our seeds, but we also buy or acquire our seeds from a number of wonderful sources. Many of our heirloom varieties come from Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit that connects people interested in preserving heirloom varieties together. They have a wide variety of seeds for sale, but also have a membership service that allows members to easily trade seeds directly. Johnny’s Selected Seeds. We have had good luck with their products and you can find them in a lot of garden centers.
We have set-up a seed starting center in our basement. Sabine says it is too messy to post a picture, so I’ll have to describe it instead. We used to have individual shelves with gro-lights mounted above, but this proved limiting. We now have large counters with adjustable height gro-lights hung above. This allows for a variety of different sized flats and more flexibility about how long we can have the seedlings inside before we harden them off outside. In the past we would run out of height. All of our
flats have temperature controlled mats to keep the feet of the seedlings just right. We like Hydrofarm germination mats and they are available in a variety of sizes. It is important to pay attention to what temperatures your seedlings want in order to germinate – hotter isn’t always better!
Last year we got a set of hoop benders for both low and high house set-ups. We hope in the near future to be able to expand our seeding outside to allow us to enjoy the fresh air while getting this important chore done.
Let us know about your seeding set-up in the comments!
Our site is still dormant from the winter, but it is sure to have green shoots of wisdom pushing up toward the sun soon. We plan on having an “Ask the Gardener” section, as well as a lot of helpful hints about things like identifying invasive species.
In the meantime, sign up in the sidebar to receive gardening hints, as well as reminders that are specific to your zone!
No, this post isn’t about Dylan, just a reflection on my life at the moment. I have worked in biomedical research for several decades. I got my doctorate at Harvard in virology. I followed that up with a post-doc before getting a position as an Instructor. After a few years I moved to Yale University ( the dark side) and took a position as an Assistant Professor.
Those were the good years. Publications came easy. I got an R21 and an R01 before the economic downturn kicked in. While I earned promotion to Associate Professor, things no longer flowed as easily. Publications slowed down and grant money dried up. Now, I’m looking to change things up a little. I’ve always been interested in computers (I’ll tell you a story about that when you get to know me better). So, I’m trying to change careers by going through several on-line code camps along with utilizing other resources. Hopefully the stars will align and result in a new position that allows me to use my new skills alongside my long-term expertise in the sciences.
In the meantime, I’ve started this website to record my thoughts on a little bit of everything from computer science and molecular virology to organic, sustainable farming.