Saturday, March 3, 2012

With Marigolds Sprouting, Can Spring Be Far Behind?

Of all the seeds I planted last weekend, the marigolds were voted most likely to come up first. The seed packet said they'd sprout as early as four days after planting. Well, my French marigolds surprised me. They started sprouting a mere two days after I planted them in their peat pellets and set them on the kitchen counter. My Cottage Red marigolds are coming up right behind them. For two or three days, I gasped in amazement every time I saw a new sprout starting to peek up above the soil. Such is the miracle of life. Here are pictures of my first "babies" of the new year:

 I had covered this plastic container with some plastic wrap to maintain moisture levels, but I removed it as soon as they began to sprout since the young plants need air circulation to prevent fungal diseases. These are the French marigolds. They are a dwarf variety.
Here are the Cottage Red marigolds, a taller variety that was discovered in Mexico. I turned on an overhead fluorescent light located by the kitchen window, and the young plants seem hungry; they are quick to turn toward the light as they turn green.

The topsoil arrived Tuesday. Don has been busy shoveling it into a wheelbarrow and filling in the two big beds out back. He is mixing in well-composted chicken manure and other organic matter as he goes. I suspect some sphagnum moss will end up in there. I hope some shredded leaves, too. We certainly have enough of them around this place!

Don has put some metal screening underneath the asparagus beds before adding topsoil. I was worried that mice, moles, and voles would dig their way into the bed from underneath. The asparagus is a 15-year investment of money, time, and energy, and I don't want to plant them just to have our furry neighbors gobble them up!


The fencing is to try to keep the dogs out. Don has now decided it will be easier for me to work in the beds if he fences in in the entire garden area rather than the individual beds. That makes sense to me. I don't want to step in the beds if I can help it, since compacted soil doesn't grow plants as well.

In the meantime, my container gardens are getting ready for spring, too. I have some turnip greens that are starting to bolt. I am thinking of letting them go to seed. My "Thomas Jefferson" radishes, the two that are left, are producing some wonderful greens, too, but I wonder if they are thinking of bolting on me. It's hard to believe they'd do that at the beginning of March, but the weather has been unseasonably warm lately. It was in the 80s yesterday, and these plants have survived  all winter, supplying Don and me with tasty greens, just waiting for their chance to reproduce.
Turnip Greens Bolting

More Turnip Greens

Radishes from seed from Monticello.

 In other planters I have mint coming up. One planter has volunteer mint coming up from last year's plants that went to seed. I didn't plant them, and I am trying to decide whether to keep them or pull them up. The plants are growing quickly so I had better decide soon! I have plenty of mint, but the new plants look so green and vigorous and young, I can't help but "root" for them; forgive the pun! I may give them away.

Volunteer Mint
I had one barren planter that Don recently sowed mustard greens in. Some of the peas that I planted last fall as a ground cover succumbed to frost, but most of it is still growing. The plants are even flowering again. Once Don gets my beds prepared, I can sow onions, lettuces, spinach, and peas in the next two weeks. It's been raining, so I hope it dries out enough that we can get the job done. I can hardly wait! But Don reminds me that moving wet soil is labor intensive.

Winter Peas
Update for May 4, 2010. I am sad to report that most of my tenderly nurtured sprouts died this year, even the marigolds, all except for most of the tomatoes, half of the pepper plants, and one hardy French marigold. 

I am not sure what I did wrong. The seedlings didn't get as much warmth and light as they have in years past. In my worry about fungal diseases, I may have under-watered them? I also may have fertilized them with a compost tea too early or not watered the solution down enough. I am hardly new to growing from seeds, so this came as a shock. 

I purchased some young onions, chives, and leeks to fill in some spots on my garden plan, but I won't be growing anywhere near as many as I would have if I could have grown them from seed, which is cheaper. I also bought some sweet peppers in case my tender seedlings don't make it. I worry about diseases from plants bought from a big box store, but I also hate the idea of a summer without home-grown tomato peppers. And if my babies live, I'll hopefully extend the season. I direct sowed some tomatoes in various spots, too, with the hope of extending my tomato season or at least giving myself another shot at the tomatoes if my first batch die. I've  updated my online garden plan with all the changes.

Don and I did not get the beds ready early enough to plant the peas. I will save the seed and plant them in the fall, at least the Alaska variety, which are the ones that I think made it all through last winter. I actually ate quite a few fresh, tender peas from these plants before I pulled the last of them up this week.

Actually, if you use peas as a cover crop, you want to cut them down in the early flowering stage, before they produce peas, because much of the valuable nitrogen in the plant goes into making the pods and peas. If you're growing as a cover crop, you want the nitrogen in the roots/soil and in the compost bin. But I can't resist fresh peas, so I'll supplement the soil with an organic fertilizer and maybe some compost, and hope to call it even.

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