Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prepping for Spring

I mentioned in an earlier post that Don and I have been preparing raised beds. Now we are waiting on a delivery of topsoil to go in them. We plan to mix the soil with well-composted chicken manure and some other amendments. I'm not sure what, yet. The 30 asparagus crowns I've ordered could be coming any day now, so we are eager to get the beds ready.

This weekend we scrounged peat pellets out of Don's garage, soaked them in water, and started planting. I reviewed the latest revision of the plans I'd made earlier through the Mother Earth News Garden Planner. I appreciate the option of seeing the plans in list view. The planner had already emailed me a list of plants that I have the option of starting indoors or under cover right now, and I took advantage of the list view of my plants to review how many I needed to plant indoors. I tried to focus on plants that like the cool weather but are slow growing, such as chives, onions, and parsley, and plants that like the warm weather but that we want on our table as soon as possible, such as tomatoes.

I patiently planted over 60 seeds in these little pellets: only 8 of the 32 chives I plan to plant, but all of the eggplants, marigolds, onions, parsley, peppers, tomatillos, and tomatoes. Of the peppers, I am planting "Healthy," "Jalapeno, Traveler Strain," "Cayenne Long Slim" and "Corno di Toro Red." Of the tomatoes, I am planting "Italian Heirloom," "Rosso Sicilian," "Big Beef Hybrid," "Brandywine," and Shumway's "Experimental Hybrid 11-F-A." I just checked my list of seeds against a list of seeds owned by Monsanto and didn't find any of this year's plantings on the list, much to my relief. I bought quite a few of them from seed savers' exchanges, and I plan to increase this practice in the future if I am happy with the results.

I planted as many dwarf French Marigolds as the planner called for, but I only planted 8 of the regular marigolds. I picked up a seed-packet of a pretty red variety from Mexico called Cottage Red. The packet says it grows tall and has a bushy habit, so I was afraid to plant four of these in my square-foot garden space, as my plan calls for. I will put one plant per square. I can always plant something small around them if there is too much weed-encouraging space.

The peat pellets are sitting, grouped by type of plant, in plastic trays that I've salvaged from takeout meals, etc., over the winter. I've learned from my blunders in past seasons and labeled the plants carefully this time. I covered the trays, once planted, with plastic wrap to hold in moisture. As soon as the plants start to sprout, I will remove the plastic to discourage fungal diseases.

I sadly don't have a heating-mat to assist plants in germinating. I am keeping the tomatoes, peppers, et al. on my kitchen counters, to benefit from the warmth of the kitchen, much to Don's chagrin. There's a little daylight that comes in through the kitchen window there. We have good light on our back porch, but it's too cool there right now for any of the plants except our onions and parsley. Don fixed up some plastic shelves on the porch to make room for my new "babies" out of the dogs' reach, and I intend to put the temperature-sensitive plants out on the porch during the day when it's warm and then return them to the kitchen in the evening. Hopefully the weather will warm up and we won't have to do this for very long. Will my tomatoes and other nightshades germinate in the cooler-than-recommended temperatures of the kitchen? Time will tell!

Plastic shelves with onions and chives

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