Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Garden Buddy Series Intro
Gardening, it seems, is like a virus, and it's spreading. Both my mother and my best friend are starting ambitious veggie gardens this year and both are a little new to the endeavor. Neither are what I would call novices, so I expect they'll both do fabulously. Becky has expressed an interest in timely hints and reminders from me, and I'm thinking they won't hurt my mom, even if she thinks she only wants okra and black-eyed peas.
So, I thought to myself, "Self, I bet there are other zone 5 gardeners interested in timely reminders and hints."
So, for this growing season I will be putting out a weekly series here on the blog. Once a week I will write a detailed post about what they should/could be planting that week, what they should/could be harvesting and things to watch out for.
If you're gardening in the midwest and interested in using the information, just add or subtract a week depending on whether you live North of zone 5 or South of it. For those of you who occasionally read my blog in Texas, the information won't be as good, because we don't have the extreme hot/dry spell that y'all have in late summer.
We're coming up quick on the Last Frost Date for our area. I'm North of zone 5, and my last frost date is May 10th, Mom and Becky are probably closer to May 1st for Frost Free. I have seedlings happily growing in the light of the dining room window, supplemented with one of my grow lights. Here's my work area as I was trying to set up flats for potting up the seedlings which I will need to do in the next week I think. The tomato seedlings all have one set of real leaves, and usually around 2 sets of real leaves is the time to pot up.
My work area is just the dining room right now, but there are a couple of places where I hope to move my seed starting area to. Either the small mudroom or down in one of the basement rooms. Nothing is entirely unpacked yet, so it's all a little bit make-do right now.
Tips for starting seedlings in our area:
- Don't start too early. Especially with tomatoes, if they get too big for their britches you might be tempted to plant them out too early, and tomatoes get really unhappy really quickly when planted in cold wet spring ground. Watch for the Last Frost Date and aim to have 6-8 week old transplants for the weekend following that LFD. Other types of seedlings may require different math if they can go out before the LFD or if they need to be bigger than 6-8 weeks old at transplant. Just do the research and sit down with a calendar and map it out.
-Good light is key. A big sunny window can handle a few seedlings, but any more than 4 or 5 and that windowsill is going to be crowded. I have a couple of inexpensive flourescent grow tube lights. I highly recommend them.
-Warmth makes for happy seedlings. I have a warming mat that I place under the tray when the seeds are sprouting. After they pop up and get established I find I can remove both the tray lid and the warming mat and they do just fine.
-Pick your battles. Yes you *can* start everything inside, but trust me, you don't want to. Some plants don't handle transplant well, some don't need the babying. Do some research, and choose those plants that you really need to start early and you know will handle transplant well. (Observant readers may notice that I have lettuce started in my tray. This was a case of wanting lettuce but knowing I would have to move. They were started in my tray just to make them easier to transport to the new house. They will get planted out this weekend I hope.)