extending the season
5 May 2013, by gj
Purchase seedlings that have flowers on them. You may think you are getting a head start, but really what the plants need to do first is establish their roots, not produce babies. Let them get settled in.
If you started your own plants and they are budding, pinch those flowers off. Really, you’ll get more fruit in the long run.
The tomatoes are ready, is the soil?
Over fertilize. It’s fine to give your plants some good healthy compost, but take it easy on the fertilizer. Too much will grow wonderful bushy and green, albeit unproductive, plants. Same goes for your peppers by the way.
Give them a bit of Epsom salts. They love that stuff. If they don’t need it, it won’t hurt. It is good to have it as a preventative measure to help grow healthier plants.
Plant your transplants very deep. ‘Up to their necks’ is what the farmers say. This way they will grow a great root system, as mentioned above. The better the roots, the more productive the plants will then be.
Ready to rumble.
Water from above, if you can help it. This can cause soil to splash up on the stems, making them more prone to disease. Try to use a soaker hose whenever possible with tomatoes.
Mulch, especially if you are watering from above. This helps prevent that soil splash just mentioned, as well as holds the moisture your tomatoes may need.
Put in the stakes you are going to use for support at the same time you plant. You don’t want to go back later and start damaging those roots you both worked so hard for.
Know what type of tomato you are growing. If it’s a ‘determinate’ type, it may suddenly stop producing. Learn more by following the link at the end of this post.
Stress it. Are you feeling over run with tomatoes? Are you concerned about fruit flies in your kitchen? Simply wash some of those tomatoes off and toss them in the freezer. When you have time, thaw to use. A bonus: the skins will slip right off after defrosting.
Happy in their cloched bed.
Enjoy a variety if you have the room. Roma and plum tomatoes are best for preserving, slicing types for fresh eating, and of course cherry tomatoes for snacking. Plant tomatoes based on how you intend to use them.
plant them outside before the soil temperature is 50F. How warm the soil has become is a function of how close the sun is, the depth, and how much sunshine the area gets. Surface soil can feel warm but 6 inches down it can still be quite cold. Some gardeners plant their tomatoes out when the overnight lows are consistently above 50F. Not the same thing, but close.
Tomatoes under glass.
speed up the process by covering the area with black plastic, and turning the soil over every so often. If you plant early, keep those heat loving tomatoes warm through the use of cloches.
In a pinch, canning jars will do the trick, just don’t let the plants get fried. That’s for the green fruit.
Learn more about growing tomatoes here. Scroll down for all previous posts.
Categories: extending the season, how to grow, tomatoes
3 May 2013, by gj
Carrots poking through much earlier.
Pretty much any vegetable gardener will tell you that it takes forever for carrot seeds to sprout. Parsnips take even longer.
Is it coincidence that these, two of the tiniest seeds of edible plants, are the slowest to poke through the soil?
Check out this chart prepared by Heirloom Seeds:
Click here to view the chart.
If you take a look at the best temperatures for germination, you will notice part of the problem.
Carrot seeds are planted early in the spring, long before the soil temperatures reach 75F. Parsnips can germinate at a little cooler soil temperature, but 70F is still much warmer than what the normal planting conditions are.
This year we started basil seeds, which are about the same size as carrots, indoors. They pushed through the soil much faster than they did when they were direct sown. Of course, they were in warmer soil and with even amounts of moisture.
That is the key with all seeds, but especially those that are in cooler soil than what is optimum for growing. And here I always thought it was the small size of the seed that was the connecting factor.
So what can you do? Carrots really don’t like to be transplanted, so starting them indoors is not the answer.
Part of the solution we looked at before, cloching. This simple method of covering the seeded area with plastic will help warm the soil and speed up germination. It also helps hold in moisture, with is the second factor and probably the more important one.
Give your direct sown seeds this kind of attention.
There’s an even easier way to cloche to improve seed germination times. Since you are only covering the seed until you begin to see green leaves, you can just lay the plastic on the ground and simply use some rocks or anything heavy to keep it from blowing away. Clamps will hold it on a raised bed.
And you don’t need to buy fancy plastic. The drop cloth kind you can get wherever house paint is sold works fine.
If for some reason you can’t cloche, at the very least keep those seeds moist until they poke through.
Cloched peas sprouted faster than uncloched.
Our carrots and other early veggies are about a week ahead this year, it would have been more if we thought to cover them earlier.
Now you’ve just learned what it took us 30 years to figure out.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season
28 April 2013, by gj
There are a number of veggies that don’t care to be transplanted and are best sown directly into the garden. These would include the root crops like parsnips and carrots, as well as all the beans and peas. Squash plants, cucumbers and melons are not fond of it, but it can be done.
Basil started indoors.
When you start seeds indoors, you have control over the conditions. How much heat and water they receive is up to you.
With direct sown seeds, it’s all in Mother Nature’s hands.
Or is it?
Here they come.
The two things you can control, at least to some extent, are moisture and heat.
Keeping your seeds moist until they poke through the soil is very important. Sure, sometimes spring rains and snows do it for you. When they don’t, it’s up to you to give them a light watering every day until you see the green. Mulching between rows can help hold that moisture longer.
A bit crooked, but it works.
Even though some seeds can take the cold, carrots, peas and parsnips for example, you will still get a faster germination if you can keep them a little warmer. For rows of seeds, a simple cover can be made by bending pvc pipes and covering with clear plastic. This is known as a ‘low tunnel’ and works great. Empty canning jars or clear soda bottles make mini cloches for smaller plantings.
Likewise, plastic can easily be clamped onto a raised bed for a temporary cloche.
Jump-started watermelon from 2012.
Not only will these techniques help you speed up your germination times, they can also give you a jump start on your season, or help towards the end of the year to keep frost off your plants.
If your growing season is at all limited, extending the time you have is worth its weight in produce.
Here’s more info on extending the growing season.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, gardening, how to grow
20 April 2013, by gj
As long as there is no frost or freeze, tomatoes can take temperatures down into the 30′s. That being said, it doesn’t mean they will like it.
They prefer not to go below 50, so we were keeping this in mind as we were monitoring the mini greenhouse to watch for when we could begin using it, and when we need to vent it.
We used a high/low thermometer which records not only the current temperature (left bottom) but also what the extremes were for the previous 24 hours (right bottom).
On a partly sunny day the temperatures inside can get warm enough that even with cold nights they stay close to 50F.
So when the kitchen seedling area began to look like a jungle, and the overnight inside temperatures were staying well into the 40′s, we moved the largest of the tomatoes and peppers into their new home.
That was two weeks ago now and the plants are thriving. We did bring them inside once just to check on them and give them a good watering.
Tomorrow the overnight low is supposed to drop into the 20′s. Hmmm.
We may bring them indoors, depending on what the inside temperature is at sunset. If it’s a sunny day, we should be okay.
Which would be good, because soon they will have company.
Here’s how we built the mini greenhouse.
Categories: extending the season
4 April 2013, by gj
As a newbie gardener many years ago, I thought the growing season started after the last spring frost, and ended after the first one in fall. That’s only about 120 days here, not much time at all.
Then I remember reading on the back of a pack of pea seeds “Plant as soon as the ground can be worked in spring.”
So I went to the library to learn more -that’s a building that use to house hard copies of most of what you can now find on the internet, but just the correct information.
A whole new world.
It was true of course, and what’s even better, it’s not just peas.
Fava beans, mache, and arugula all love the cold weather. So do turnips.
Broccoli head forming.
Other plants can be started indoors, and still transplanted out long before the tomatoes and peppers. We have cabbages, mustard, kale, and collards out in a bed already. We did have an unseasonable cold snap, so the bed was covered in plastic, but that will be off this week as things return to normal. They probably would have been okay, but why chance it?
Just a little extra precaution.
Also in this bed are seeds for sorrel, turnips, beets, and of course, snow peas.
In other areas of the garden there are more peas planted, fava beans, carrots, mache, endive, arugula and mesclun. Onions and garlic were planted last fall and are now poking through what is left of the snow.
Asparagus at year two.
Soon we’ll see even more. All this with another 2 months to go until ‘planting time.’
Can it get any better?
Well, actually yes it can. Many of these plants can be grown again by planting mid to late summer for a fall harvest. Mache and kale will all but survive the winter entirely!
So if you thought like I did, that gardening was just for the warm weather months, now you know better. Unless you live in an area that never sees any frost, then Cold Weather Veggies? Yeah-
You Can Grow That! is a monthly collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage and help others learn to grow.
You can find additional posts by clicking on the pic above. You can also follow us on Pinterest.
For more help with what to plant when for your growing area, visit Mother Earth News.
Categories: extending the season, gardening, you can grow that
26 February 2013, by gj
There’s a lot of information here about extending your growing season, just follow the link below. So why add more?
Here’s the deal:
Fifteen years ago when the garden was just out the back door, and I was, well, 15 years younger, I didn’t mind so much picking carrots in January.
Even if it did require snow boots.
Now the garden is out front and up a hill. Once the snow falls it can be difficult to get to, requiring not only boots but also a shovel to get the gate open.
There are some limits as to what I’m willing to do, admittedly not much, but some.
Rather than go without those fresh cold loving veggies, we built some raised beds closer to the house.
Yay- no more hills and shovels!
There is one drawback though; the space is limited.This is the first time we ever had to plan for winter veggies in such a tight spot.
You got to love a gardening challenge!
Plotting and planning.
If this is something you are considering, here are a few tips to steer you in the right direction.
1. Know your veggies.
Learn which veggies, like carrots and parsnips for example, can be overwintered in the garden and how to do that. Which greens can take the cold? Try mache and chard.
Basically, if you eat the leaves or the root end, it has a better chance surviving in the winter garden.
2. Plan ahead.
Here in Zone 5/6 our garlic matures about the end of July to early August, giving us time to get in a fall batch of turnips, carrots, and chard.
G. J., but what about the other garden areas, like where the tomatoes are? They won’t be open until later in the fall, right? Is there still time to plant?
See? Now you’re thinking like a year round gardener!
You still have time for some quick growing crops like beets and radishes, and some that will overwinter or be protected.
3. Timing is everything.
Look for veggies varieties that will mature faster, giving you more time for another crop. Plant determinate tomatoes and bush beans to help open an area sooner. Look for faster maturing varieties of other veggies by checking the Days to Maturity on the packet or in the seed catalog or website.
This one simple step can easily give you a few extra weeks for the second crop.
4. Get help.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheelbarrow here.
Look for information on adding a simple cloche or cold frame to your garden. We once used inverted quart size glass canning jars to plant tomatoes a few weeks early.
Get good info.
5. Read more about it.
We would recommend the Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jarbbour and Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.
6. Start small.
Before you go full throttle try overwintering carrots. You may love it, or you may decide you don’t want to be out in the cold weather harvesting.
Hey… it could happen.
Here’s all of our posts on extending your season.
Categories: extending the season, gardening, techniques
23 February 2013, by gj
Whether you prefer heirlooms to hybrids, or plant a combination of both, you may want to get the most veggies from each plant possible. Certainly if you share your produce, sell it, and/or preserve it, this will be the case.
The best place to start is at the beginning, with the variety you choose.
Prolific zucchini produces twin male flowers.
Some varieties that produce well are easy to spot; it’s generally in the name of the plant. We planted Cashflow zucchini last year, what were we thinking? Even with the attack of the bunnies we were still giving zucchinis away.
Look for names that indicate something similar, such as Provider green beans, Olympian cucumbers, and Megaton leeks from Johnny’s Select Seeds.
Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds also offers many varieties of above average producers, including Contender bush green bean, Giant of Naples cauliflower, and Prosperosa eggplant.
Terms such as early may indicate the plant has a shorter growing season, giving you a little more time to get another crop in. Watch this one though, it may also mean it produces sooner, but not necessarily more or finishes up faster. Read the body of the description. Look for terms like High Yield and Prolific.
Is there a list somewhere that clearly states Best Veggie Producing Varieties? I wish. In reality, that can’t happen.
What produces the most in your garden might be different than what happens in mine. There’s that whole weather thing we have to deal with.
Ask around the neighborhood or at your local cooperative extension if you have one. Keep notes like ‘Did well is spite of the drought’ so it will be easier to remember how each plant fared.
As for Cashflow zucchini, think long about that one.
For some tips on the subject, you can pick up our book on Kindle How to Reap the Most From What You Sow on Amazon here.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, gardening
17 February 2013, by gj
Learning to follow one crop with another is not as daunting a task as it might seem at first.
There are only two main things you need to know:
1. How long from planting until the harvest is done.
2. Who is related to whom.
It’s all about timing and rotating crops. Here is an example from our Pennsylvania garden, zone 5/6:
In mid- spring potatoes are planted in a 4 ft. by 4 ft. bed. They take about 3 months to grow their biggest and are ready to pull at the end of July to mid-August, depending on the weather. Over the course of the season compost is added to the bed to help them stay below soil level and thrive.
Beets take only 6-8 weeks to grow, and turnips about the same. Neither are related to potatoes so won’t be affected if there are any potential disease or bugs lurking in the bed. Both can take some frost, and most likely will need to. Out come the potatoes and in the beet and turnip seeds go.
Towards the end of September to mid-October the turnips and beets are harvested. Yum! The bed is then revitalized with some nice homemade compost and ready for the garlic cloves to be planted. Garlic loves to be overwintered in the garden, and is usually ready to harvest the end of the following July. Well worth the wait as far as garlic lovers see it.
Here we are again at the end of July- so what to plant next? Consider some parsnips or scorzonera (black salsify). Both do better if they get some frost, and they’ll keep that bed working through the winter. Harvest in the spring about the same time the rest of the garden is going in. Don’t forget to give them some of that compost as well.
Two years have gone by- how time flies! Consider a short season crop next, say lettuce or spinach. Keep in mind none of these crops that follow another are related, so you’re rotating crops in the finest of style. Now, lettuce and spinach will bolt when the temperatures get too hot, leaving the bed open once again. Hmm.
Plant a long season carrot and some kale. Both can go well into the winter, at times kale will survive the winter entirely. Carrots will need a little help in the form of mulching, but still can be harvested at the very least into January.
In March you can plant the peas.
Now look what you have done- you’ve kept that bed growing with little interruption for 3 years, with no special equipment needed; and now you can start all over.
Good for you- you’re the gardener!
Give yourself a pat on the back- just remember to wash your hands first.
Categories: extending the season, gardening, how to grow
27 January 2013, by gj
Most gardeners know that you can save the seeds from many vegetables to plant the following year.
Ginger to be started indoors.
Many also know you can buy things like horseradish and ginger at the grocery store to plant.
Did you know that you can buy a celery stalk, cut off all but the bottom end, and replant it? Sure enough a little celery plant will spring up from the center.
Likewise you can replant the bottom portion of onions, both large and scallion. As long as you have the root end, the plants will regrow.
We also keep our smallest onions to replant the following year, giving them another chance to get bigger. It’s also because nobody wants to peel the smaller ones.
Ready for planting.
Potatoes that are leftover from the previous harvest, or store bought ones that have started to sprout, can be replanted. If need be, they can even be started indoors, giving you a bit of a jump on the season.
Sweet potatoes are a crop you should only ever buy slips for once. Save some of your harvest to grow over the winter indoors, and replant when the weather is warm.
Sweet potatoes waiting for spring.
Of course you will want to get them into the ground as soon as possible when the weather is right. For potatoes and onions, that’s early in the spring; about 10 weeks before your last frost. Sweet potatoes and celery prefer the warmer temperatures.
You can try this with store bought herbs as well, if they still have the roots intact. Often though these are grown hydroponically and don’t adapt easily to transplanting.
Categories: extending the season, how to grow, saving money & time, techniques
25 November 2012, by gj
Please refer to part 1 and part 2 here.
The mini greenhouse was almost finished at this point.
All that was left was to see how it works, or so I thought.
I found there were some gaps between the windows and their frames, because the windows were not perfectly flat.
ack- a leak!
This was easy enough to fix with just a can of spray foam insulation.
it is great stuff
Although this stuff is somewhat messy to work with, it fills any gaps easily and when it dries it can be trimmed with a sharp knife.
Weather stripping was added to the front doors for additional protection.
Some milk jugs spray painted black and almost filled with water were placed inside. These will absorb heat during the day and help keep the temperature up overnight.
keep it warm
I went through a few different ways to hang the front windows in order to gain access to the interior while still keeping it warm.
What worked best in the end was to hinge the windows on the outer sides so that they open as a door would.
To not lose too much warm air though, I took a large sheet of plastic twice the height I needed and equal to the width. It was folded in half and stapled to 2 leftover pieces of wood.
This was then stapled inside the front opening. The wood on the bottom will help hold the plastic down.
Of course it would be easier to do this prior to attaching the front panel- hindsight is wonderful.
Finally a latch was attached to the front to help keep it shut tight.
I’ve been monitoring temperatures and the interior is from 5-12 degrees warmer, less first thing in the morning or on a cloudy day.
I expect this will be better later in the winter when the days are longer and the sun is closer.
An overnight low of 50 degrees F. is needed before tomato plants can go inside, so when Mandolin asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year I didn’t hesitate. Instead I directed him to a hi-low thermometer, also called min-maximum. This records the overnight low and will help me know when I can start using the new addition to the garden.
just a matter of time now
Yahoo- Planting time is coming sooner this year!
Categories: extending the season, garden projects, keeping up with the joneses