Sunday, April 11, 2010

Seeds starts

Garden time has started.

Well, it actually started a month or so ago, theoretically, but the greens I planted (Lacinato kale,  Savoy spinach and a type of lettuce I can't remember) are only just now peeking through, and only three of 20-some sugar pea seeds have decided to make an appearance. We had all this nice warm weather, which was then followed by a few frosts and quite a bit of rain.

It's a learning lesson, every year :)

So though my garden is going, I've been disappointed in myself that I had failed to do any seed starts. We don't have a ton of space for it in the house; I don't feel like spending the money on fluorescent lights and propagation mats and convincing Chris to clear out space for me in the garage; and, like the previous post mentioned, things have been busy.

I have missed the boat on doing seed starts of the cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts--pretty much all the things kids hate), b/c they like the cooler weather of late spring/early summer (cool for the Pacific NW, that is) and can be set out within the next few weeks. But today I realized, "Duh. Look at a calendar..." Six weeks from today is May 22nd: the perfect time of year for our area to start setting out the hot weather crops (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squashes--all the stuff people like when they think about gardening!). I say "six weeks" b/c that's the number the seed packets and seed purveyors give you for deciding when to sow your starts indoors: six weeks before your average last frost date. I surveyed multiple website and gardening books and came up with a range of "last frost" dates for my area, ranging from mid-May to end of May. The 22nd sounds perfect to me :)

I started off only planning to do seed starts of cukes and squashes today, and while googling to find how deep to plant cucumbers, came across the info that transplanting members of the cucurbit family (which includes cucumbers, winter and summer squashes, pumpkins...) is not a good idea! Apparently they do not like their roots disturbed, which is why most instructions are to sow them directly into the ground. However, a few websites said that for areas with shorter growing seasons, doing starts only 3-4 weeks before the last frost date would allow you a head start, but not allow the roots to get so large that they'll be easily disturbed. SO...with that info, I decided I will still do the starts, but not until the end of April. (As a side note: Courtney, I only have six of the Japanese climbing cucumber seeds. I'll just start them all, and if I have extra, they're yours!)

Today, in the end, I started red chili peppers, apple green eggplant, three varieties of cherry tomatoes (Sungold, Blondkopfchen and chocolate cherry), Japanese Trifele black tomatoes (these failed last year), and Jaune Flammee tomatoes. I also learned that ALL of these starts should be done in 3-inch diameter pots--something I have failed to do in the past. Smaller pots lead to leggy plants and poor transplanting success. Huh. Sounds familiar. Guess egg cartons weren't cutting it :) They should all also be transplanted into bigger pots when they get the first full set of leaves, then be moved to their permanent place outside when it warms up. I wish I could just follow directions instead of messing up for three years in a row *sigh*
I'm totally not holding my breath for any of those starts, but you know the fact that this year since I am not depending on them, that this is when they'll all do fabulous.

Now on the garden to-do list: replant sugar peas and sow a row of carrots within the next week.

And WSU's extension website looks like it's a fabulous source. I mean, I'm probably a bit biased, being a third-generation Coug and granddaughter of an extension research professor, but the "Gardening" link looks like some info I need to be reading. Everything from fruit plants, to vegetable gardens, to organic gardening, to master gardening program info...the list goes on. Beat that UW.

And, because I find blog posts w/o pictures kind of boring, here are some of the kids playing in the garden. They've really been enjoying having over half of the garden to dig holes, find worms, make construction sites, etc. This particular day, Danny refused to set foot in the garden b/c he was wearing sandals and didn't want dirt in them, so he played around the perimeter. Isaac refused to get off his bike, b/c he was waiting to load it in the car.

And Zeus is just funny:

And just to prove that some of my garden doesn't look awful:

All of the greens you can see in that picture overwintered--kale is the tall stuff in the back, and carrots are the closer, smaller greens. The kale was probably only a couple inches high in the beginning of January, but we had so much warm weather that it shot up, and we've had fresh kale. It's a bit tougher than the nice brand new stuff, and slightly more bitter, but not bad by any means. The carrots are still itty-bitty, but hey, I guess it's a bit of a head start. I thinned them out a couple weeks ago and the boys ate all of the tiny ones I pulled out! (Which, btw, you should cut the tops to thin them out, so you don't disturb the roots, but I couldn't leave them to rot in the ground when my children wanted to eat them so badly...)

And the raspberry beds look beautiful:

Yay for spring!


  1. Thank you, thank you! I learn so much about gardening from you!

  2. This actually started as an email to you and Courtney, but then I had pictures, so I figured a blog post would work as well as an email, huh?!