Archive for the ‘Garden Schedule’ category

Starting Early in the Garden

March 25th, 2009
A simple cloche made by cutting the bottom out of a milk jug my be all that is required to protect early garden plants from cold weather.

A simple cloche made by cutting the bottom out of a milk jug may be all that's required to protect early garden plants from cold weather.

By April in zone 6 we’re experiencing some really nice Spring weather.  A few people (me) are already setting out tomatoes early in the month and covering them with milk jugs until they get going.  Some even started planting in March – potatoes, brassicas, and garden peas especially.

I’ve often heard the opinion that starting your garden “too” early is a waste – plants which are set out later will quickly catch up to those which have had to suffer through erratic spring weather.  I accept that this might be true, however I like to get an early start anyway for these reasons:

  1. I just LIKE to get an early start.
  2. The weather is fine and makes the work much more enjoyable.
  3. It’s easier to harden off the plants during cool moist weather than it is once it starts to get hot.
  4. You don’t have to be as vigilant about watering as you would later.
  5. If you wait until later to plant everything all at once the job can be over whelming – so an early start allows you to spread out the work load.
  6. If you get the opportunity to plant early in the season you might want to take it because wet weather (or life)  might prevent you from working in the garden when you need to later.
  7. In my completely anecdotal and unscientific experience – Gardeners who start early have more overall success.

Starting early is a gamble, and you must remain vigilant and prepared in case of cold weather – frosts and overnight temps below freezing are a distinct possibility in April.  As a general rule your plants will survive those late frosts without a hitch if you cover them with anything – sheets, buckets, plastic, mulch, anything – so be prepared with sufficient materials to do so and watch the weather reports.

Even so, every once in a while a really freakish late cold front will blow through and kill a few things – but not very often.

A few things really should not be planted until the soil warms up – notably corn and beans* – these seeds are likely to rot in cool wet soil before they germinate.  However, you can get an early start even with those by planting them under a simple plastic tunnel to warm the soil and protect them from cold and too much rain.

So maybe my tomatoes won’t ripen any earlier, but I’ve never regretted getting an early start in my garden, and I have regretted a late one.

Happy Gardening!

* Fava Beans are different and can be planted much earlier – you should give them a try!

March in the Garden

February 28th, 2009

March is when things really start happening in the garden – even though some wintry weather is normal for this month you can’t help but notice the flowers appearing, the buds swelling, and the birds singing – nature knows that winter is almost over.  If you haven’t already placed your seed order you need to do it ASAP! If you save your own heirloom seeds you don’t have to worry about buying seeds – ever again.

March is the right time for planting many cool season plants, but unfortunately the unpredictable weather means that it might be hard on any given day to work in the garden.  So try to take advantage of any break in the weather to  prepare the ground as soon as possible.  Add  compost, manure, lime and other soil amendments at  planting time if you haven’t already.

Freeze hardy annual and perennial vegetables can be planted or set out any time in March:

  • Potatoes *
  • Onion and Shallot sets
  • Peas**
  • Fava Beans
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Horseradish
  • Jerusalem artichokes

Frost hardy vegetables can be seeded or set-out later in the month: » Read more: March in the Garden

Plan Now for a Fall Garden – Before it’s Too Late!

February 19th, 2009

Before it’s too late?!  Yes, that’s not a joke.  It’s still winter but the cabbage, broccoli, peas, potatoes, etc that you’re planting now (or soon will be) for your early spring garden are almost the same things you will want to plant in July – August (in zone 6)  for a Fall garden.  The thing is that seed will be hard to find, and seed potatoes and bedding plants will be just about non-existant by then.  Buy a few extra now while they are plentiful  and stash them for later.  You’ll be glad you did.

Home Made Bottom Heat for Seed Starting (or pet bed)

February 17th, 2009
These tomatoe plants were grown under shop lights in only 4 weeks from planting the seeds!

I always had problems starting seeds in our plant room, but these tomato plants were grown under shop lights in only 4 weeks from planting the seeds!

These seedlings were planted only one week ago.  I used to wait weeks for germination that was spotty at best in my cool plant grow room.

These seedlings were planted only one week ago. I used to wait weeks for germination that was spotty at best in my cool plant grow room.

The answer was simple…
Recycling rope lights turn out to be a great way to make bottom heat for seed starting under lights.

Recycled rope lights turn out to be a great way to make bottom heat for seed starting under lights.

I built our “plant room” about 2 years ago – just a small well insulated room with a lot of windows and shop lights – and since then I’ve tried starting my own seeds with varying degrees of success.  The problem that I’ve had is that over night temperatures in the room routinely fall into the 50s which is fine for maintaining tender plants over the Winter, but makes seed germination spotty at best.  I knew that what I needed was bottom heat.

The thing is that retail bottom heat is expensive – I saw one “kit” at a local garden center that was big enough for 2 flats and was $79 – wow!  You can buy a lot of tomato plants for eighty bucks!  A low cost alternative had to be possible for a dedicated scrounger like myself.

Whatever I decided upon had to be:

  1. Safe – neither an electrical shock nor a fire hazard!
  2. Cheap
  3. Simple
  4. Big  enough to start all of our early Spring seeds.

Before proceeding – You the reader must agree that you will not hold the author or anyone associated with doorgarden.com responsible for your use of this information.  What you see being done in this article may not be safe (and probably isn’t), and could cause injury, death, destruction, mayhem, fire, dammage to your home, and prolong the economic downturn by preventing you from spending money and thereby stimulating the economy.  It might not even work.  In any event thou shalt not hold me responsible.  If you don’t agree with any of that then turn back now – don’t even look at the pictures. » Read more: Home Made Bottom Heat for Seed Starting (or pet bed)

February in the Garden

February 4th, 2009
Cold weather and snow concentrates birds near food supplys

Cold weather and snow concentrate birds near food supplies in February.

What to plant in the garden in February – Cool Season Vegetables – February is not too early to begin planting the spring vegetable garden.  Take action now and your family will be eating fresh garden fare months before your neighbors.

  • Cool season crops such as broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, turnips, Irish potatoes and onions planted now will yield their harvest soon.
  • Arugula, lettuce, and other salad greens can also be planted out in the garden this month, but will do better if started under cover of a simple plastic tunnel, or a cold frame.  Plan on succession plantings every week or two to keep the homegrown goodness coming.
  • Spinach – plant out in the garden around the middle of the February – cover spinach seeds with 1/4″  of peat moss or screened compost instead of garden soil so that the tiny plants don’t have to fight heavy crusty soil just to emerge.  Plant plenty to share with family and friends.
  • Potatoes – toward the end of the month plant potatoes in trenches or pits leaving room to add additional soil as the plants emerge.
  • Black berries, grapes, strawberries and other small fruit and hardy perennials can be transplanted out this month.
  • Asparagus crowns can be set out or moved, as can almost any dormant hardy perennial. » Read more: February in the Garden

Plant Spacing for Intensive Gardening Methods

January 26th, 2009
That sweet corn is way too close together - the yield was very small, and much of it fell over after a big rain because of the shallow restricted roots.
That sweet corn inter-planted with pole beans (an experiment) is way too close together – the yield was very small, and much of it fell over after a big rain because of the shallow restricted roots.

Recommended Spacing for Intensive Planting  Methods

Plant Inches Plant Inches
Asparagus 15 – 18 Lettuce, head 10 – 12
Beans, lima 4 – 6 Lettuce, leaf 4 – 6
Beans, pole 6 – 12 Melons 18 – 24
Beans, bush 4 – 6 Mustard 6 – 9
Beets 2 – 4 Okra 12 – 18
Broccoli 12 – 18 Onion 2 – 4
Brussels sprouts 15 – 18 Peas 2 – 4
Cabbage 15 – 18 Peppers 12 – 15
Cabbage, Chinese 10 – 12 Potatoes 10 – 12
Carrots 2 – 3 Pumpkins 24 – 36
Cauliflower 15 – 18 Radishes 2 – 3
Cucumber 12 – 18 Rutabaga 4 – 6
Chard, Swiss 6 – 9 Southern pea 3 – 4
Collards 12 – 15 Spinach 4 – 6
Endive 15 – 18 Squash, summer 18 – 24
Eggplant 18 – 24 Squash, winter 24 – 36
Kale 15 – 18 Sweet corn 15 – 18
Kohlrabi 6 – 9 Tomatoes 18 – 24
Leeks 3 – 6 Turnip 4 – 6

Arizona State University Master Gardener Manual: Intensive Gardening Methods. » Read more: Plant Spacing for Intensive Gardening Methods

Spring is Here – Time to Garden!

January 13th, 2009
Cocus Flowers in the Snow - Carmelite Monastery Chapel Bettendorf, Iowa

Cocus Flowers in the Snow - Carmelite Monastery Chapel - Bettendorf, Iowa

OK, Spring isn’t here yet, but it is time to take some action. I know, there’s a blizzard blowing down today, but in just a few weeks (around February 15 in zone 6) it will be time to plant spinach out in the garden – and by the end of February it will be time to plant early potatoes. Not to mention anything that you are planning to start indoors.  So, this is just a heads up.

If you’re hoping to plant any varieties that aren’t available off the shelf it’s time to place your seed order pretty soon.  No catalogs?  Just Google for garden seeds and place your order online.

In just a few weeks it WILL be spring with birds singing and buttercups blooming – and you’re going to want to get your hands in the dirt.   An early start really helps you to get the most out of your garden – and will make your garden the envy of the neighborhood.  Act now so you can be ready!

Grow All Winter In a Cold Frame Made From Recycled Materials

January 8th, 2009

A simple cold frame is an easy, economical way to get more out of  your garden.

Fresh salad in the cold frame in January

Salad ready to eat in January

You might know that I built a small greenhouse this fall.  Unfortunately by the time I finished it in early November it was pretty late to get started – I have a few things going in there now, but I’ve not really been able to use it to full advantage.  Being able to enjoy the sunshine while I’ve worked in there out of the cold has been nice.  But the truth is that so far this cold frame has been at least as productive as the greenhouse.

While I built my greenhouse on the cheap ($50 out of pocket) building this cold frame actually cost nothing – 100 percent recycled materials» Read more: Grow All Winter In a Cold Frame Made From Recycled Materials

January in the Garden

January 3rd, 2009
One of the first harbingers of Spring is the first glimpse of crocuses, and daffodils peaking through.  But, in January?

One of the first harbingers of Spring is a glimpse of crocuses or daffodils peeking through. But in January?

So far in middle TN we haven’t really had very much cold weather yet, and we’ve had highs in the upper 60s several times in the last couple of weeks – thus the daffodils peeking through the mulch.  Actually they weren’t really peeking through – I uncovered them by accident while grubbing out chick weed yesterday – New Years Day.  Anyway, they’ll be fine – I covered them back after taking that picture.  BTW fear not, although it might be a bit early those bulbs will be fine.  Just sprinkle a bit of loose mulch over them if you must – or not. » Read more: January in the Garden

Free Seeds for Life

January 2nd, 2009
Many seeds such as this basil can be easily saved from year to year.

Many seeds such as this basil can be easily saved from year to year.

Winter is a great time to sit down with a nice warm beverage and a seed catalog to plan your garden for next Spring.  Unfortunately sticker shock usually strikes when you start tallying up everything that you would like to grow.  But it doesn’t have to be like that. » Read more: Free Seeds for Life