My body keeps telling me it’s early March but the calender says April 4th! We are having a really late spring here in Ohio. The day-time temperatures have remained in the 40’s and night temperatures have been dipping into the 20’s. This has lead to me remaining indoors on the computer ordering more seeds and plants than I ever should and not as much time being outside cleaning things up and preparing the soil. Now I am behind and really need to kick things into high gear. A lot needs to be done NOW!http://ragrani.ru
Get the peas in the ground!
It is easy to miss this window for pea planting especially when you have a cold, late spring but peas love cool weather. They prefer to germinate in soil temperatures of 40 degrees and they don’t like growing when the air temperature is much warmer than seventy. This means you need to get at least part of your garden turned or tilled right away. If you have a small garden turning with a shovel or pitch fork is better. It helps to retain that loft I wrote about in my “Soils” post. We got about half of our 20 x 20 foot garden turned by hand this past weekend.
I love garden or English peas but I don’t like shelling them. Have I mentioned in this blog previously that I’m impatient? Oh… a few times? Okay, well… I prefer to grow sugar snaps. You simply get much more vegetable (technically peas are a fruit) produced from your plants and from that space. Either way they should get planted as soon as you can work your soil and when the temperatures are not staying in the 20’s at night. It’s okay if they dip down but you wouldn’t want them that cold every night.
Peas are easy to plant. When preparing the area where you are planting peas dig down at least 6 inches to loosen the soil. This will make it easier for the peas to take root and grow. More roots means more plant growth and ultimately more peas. We planted a 15 foot double row of snap peas along the fence of our garden. The rows are 4-6 inches apart with the peas placed 2 inches apart and covered with an inch of soil. I will add a 1 inch layer of compost to this row for fertilizer. If you don’t have compost then use something like Espoma Plantone. I’m just not a 10-10-10 person and you can’t put this plant ‘candy’ down until soil temperatures are consistently 50 degrees or you are just wasting your money. It will just wash away without ever being used by the plant. Our peas will be encouraged to climb our fence but there are many ways to support peas. If you don’t want to deal with making a support for them you can buy a bush variety that only grows 1-2 feet. Then you can just let them be. These are a little harder to pick since the peas end up getting hidden in the jumble of growth.
If you are not sure which type to grow or how to arrange them I recommend getting a copy of the National Garden Association’s “Gardening: The Complete Guide to Growing America’s Favorite Fruits & Vegetables”. You can order it by clicking on the title and it looks like used copies are practically free at $.01!? I will make 4% of 1 cent so I am obviously not pushing this book to make a profit. I have been consulting this easy to use book for over 20 years. It has good photos and covers all of the basics: improving your soil; when and how to plant; fertilizing; caring for specific plant needs; insect and disease issues; and much more.
If you are somewhat new to vegetable gardening and you are wondering whether or not to start your own seeds my advice would be to go easy on yourself and not try to start everything by seed the first time around. In theory buying seeds can be much cheaper than buying plants but, if you only need 5 tomato plants and you want a couple of different varieties by the time you buy 3 packets of seeds at $2-3.00 each you have paid the same as you would for plants without evening factoring in the costs of providing heat and light for a space to grow them. Tomatoes and peppers need to be started at least 8 weeks before your last frost date and that is a lot of time to care for seedlings. These plants do need a lot of light and warmth so you will need a greenhouse or good grow light set up which can be pricey.
My son and I started 6 different types of tomatoes about 10 days ago and a couple of different peppers. We will end up with about 40 plants and probably give more than half of them away to friends. I usually start the first crops of lettuce and basil varieties at this time. I love color in the vegetable garden and in my food so I always try to get fun varieties like Black Opal basil, Paul Robeson Tomatoes, and a myriad of romaine lettuces.
If you eat a lot of salad and want to have a continuous supply of lettuce throughout the season you should sow new flats with lettuce seed every 2-3 weeks right up into fall. As the summer heat kicks in your lettuce will want to bolt or shoot upward and get bitter more quickly so you will need a constant supply of new young plants. I am still experimenting with growing lettuce during the hot summers here in Ohio. When I lived on Nantucket the cool summers were perfect for growing greens but I do have difficulty keeping lettuce from getting bitter here in the 90-100 degree days of July and August. I think I may try growing some under shade cloths. I’ll keep you posted on how successful this is. If you really love salads The Harrowsmith Salad Garden: A Complete Guide to Growing and Dressing Fresh Vegetables and Greens is the book for you. It’s one of my favorites and has wonderful recipes for salad dressings and great ideas for ways to combine fresh veggies.
We have other fun things started like purple artichokes, 4 kinds of amaranth both for eating and for ornamental uses, 2 kinds of broccoli, and some annual flowers. The rest of our seeds, other than peas, do not need to be started until we are closer to our last frost free date.
Potatoes and why order expensive seed potatoes?
If you have the space potatoes are one of my favorite foods to grow. Fresh baby New potatoes of any variety are so delicious! They are really fun for kids to grow. One potato goes in the ground and 5 or more appear a few months later. Digging potatoes for dinner is fun for for anyone. It’s just so satisfying. It is not quite time to plant potatoes in my zone 6 going on 7 but it is time to order seed potatoes before suppliers sell out.
This my order from Seed Saver’s Exchange. They are beautiful looking seed potatoes. I am particularly excited about the French Fingerlings. They are the healthiest and largest I have ever received. I will store these in the box they came in and in a cool dark place until planting time which is one month before my last frost free date or 3 weeks from now. I’ll talk more about planting potatoes when the time comes to put them in the ground.
You can buy potatoes from the grocery store for about 1/4 of the price of seed potato and plant them. I have done this as a last resort when I have not gotten an order in early enough. BUT, it is preferable to buy seed potatoes because they are guaranteed to be disease free. Only the best and cleanest potatoes are selected for this purpose. I’m sure you have seen the black crusty spots on the skin of some potatoes. This is evidence of potato blight and once it takes hold of your crop it spreads very effectively and you end up with a row of mush. This is the disease that combined with a wet season was a culprit in the Great Hunger or Irish Potato Famine that began in 1845.