Saturday, February 7, 2015

First Seeds of the Season

      February has started with what one can joyously proclaim as open season on the groundhog.  After what I’m already deeming a long winter, it seems the entire populous is ready for a shorter one.  That was until ole’ Punxsutawney Phil climbed out of his hole, saw his shadow, and adamantly proclaimed six more weeks of winter.  From that moment on, open season on the groundhog has started as yet even snowier weather is planned to blow in on the horizon.  (At least he won’t be eating our seedlings come spring!)  

      With all this snow, it’s hard to believe that the first seeds of spring were planted today.  As you may have seen from the last garden update (Growing Green in case you missed it), our spring seedlings will be started on a seed starter unit that my very handy husband constructed.  And today those handyman genes were certainly coming in handy as his green thumb pushed the first seeds of the season hopefully into the soil, flipped on the timed light, and we start waiting for spring to come.

Seed starter trays can be reused year after year, so long as they don't spring a leak.  Make sure to check for leaks BEFORE you start planting.  It's a lot easier to not use a leaking tray then have to relocate pots to another tray.  I often forget and find out the hard way after the first watering.  (Hint: Another tray or spare lid can be placed underneath the leaking tray to help contain the water.)  
love seed trays with the foam beneath them to help keep the plants moist and redistribute water evenly throughout the whole season, but coming in at more than $15 a tray, the expense would be devastating.  This year, I'm going to attempt to fold up newspaper and wet it down to act as a foam bottomed tray.  
We used a 1:1 ratio of bagged seed starter mix and container mix, removing any large clumps of debris before putting it into the seed starters.  Place soil into the containers so it is level with the top.  As it gets wet, the soil will shrink.  
Fill the seed starter tray with containers.  Then plant seeds per directions on the reverse of the packet.  We're using these containers for the onion seeds.  Make sure to mark where each variety of seeds is planted before you mix up the trays! 
Water well, put the lid on and place under a grow light.  Then wait...  and wait... and wait...
       It makes me happy to see the first rows of seeds (onions in this case) on our garden layout finally preparing for their debut in the dirt.  As we plant each and every seed inside, it’s really the last chance to truly change our garden layout and what is going to be planted come spring.  Sure we can rearrange crops in the garden, but if you don’t have enough room for all your seedlings, that’s a lot of money you just wasted.  So without further ado, I present to you The Garden Layout (a.k.a. where we think we’ll be planting in the main garden come spring):

      Yes, you heard me right.  I said the main garden (also known as the lower garden).  You see, this is only 2,964 square feet of garden space that you are looking at right now.  We have to have enough food that our grocery bills next winter won’t be screaming at us because I just bought onions for the up-tenth time since I ran out for another year in a row mid-winter.  At least they lasted until December this past year, the year before it was only November… Slow progress I know.  Hopefully this year I can get them to stretch until January at least.  (Keep your fingers crossed, I know mine will be!)    

Weedy Sweet Corn Patch in 2013
      We understand that just because we attempt to grow a certain crop, it doesn’t mean it will always work.  Take for example, sweet corn.  Ah, sweet corn.  A fabulous thing to have on a hot summer day, were it not be for the beetles, caterpillars and deer, who all apparently developed a sweet tooth for it long before we started harvesting the juicy kernels our first year.  Then the red clay soil screamed a few choice things I dare not to repeat the second year, and simply put it was a learning experience.  In two years’ time with over 1,000 corn seeds planted we managed 56 measly corn cobs (some of which had been previously enjoyed by the above-mentioned critters).  The local farmers markets enjoyed our business instead.   

      This year, we hope to counter the nonproductive previous two seasons with a new brand and new variety for us – Rohrer Seed’s Incredible – and that is what we hope it will produce; an incredible yield.  Sweet corn, of course, is not the only thing going into the main garden.  Below are our planned seed varieties:

Main (Lower) Garden – 2,964 square feet
Key: Variety (* = new variety for the year), Brand (** = new brand but same variety)

Basil, Summerlong Burpee
Chives, Common Burpee
Cilantro Burpee
Dill Burpee
Oregano, Mediterranean Burpee
Parsley, Big Italy Burpee
Purple Basil Rohrer**
Thyme, Common Burpee

Calendula, Pink Surprise* Lake Valley
-- Helps to repel nematodes, tomato hornworms; can be used for cuttings
Cosmos, Sensation Mixed Colors* Rohrer
-- Helps to repel corn earworm; can be used for cuttings
Dahlia, Unwin’s Mixed Colors* Rohrer
-- Can be used for cuttings
Marigold, Burpee’s Best Mix* Burpee
-- Helps to repel aphids, cabbage maggot, Colorado potato beetle, corn earworm, cucumber beetle, Mexican bean beetle, nematodes, rabbit s, tomato hornworms, whitefly
Marigold, Petite Mix Baker Creek
-- Helps to repel aphids, cabbage maggot, Colorado potato beetle, corn earworm, cucumber beetle, Mexican bean beetle, nematodes, rabbits, tomato hornworms, whitefly
Nasturtium, Gleam Mix Livingston
-- Helps to repel aphids, cabbage looper, Colorado potato beetle, cucumber beetle, imported cabbageworm, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetle; also edible
Nasturtium, Whirlybird Mix* Rohrer
-- Help to repel aphids, cabbage looper, Colorado potato beetle, cucumber beetle, imported cabbageworm, squash bugs, striped pumpkin beetle; also edible
Petunia, Choice Mix* Liberty Garden
-- Help to repel aphids, leafhopper, Mexican bean beetle, squash bug, tomato hornworm Petunia, Stellaris* Baker Creek
-- Help to repel aphids, leafhopper, Mexican bean beetle, squash bug, tomato hornworm
Bean, Black Turtle* High Mowing
Bean, Hutterite Soup* Seed Savers
Bean, Montcalm Dark Red Kidney* Rohrer
Bean, Scarlet Runner Rohrer**
Broccoli, Green Magic* Rohrer
Broccoli, Sun King Hybrid Burpee
Broom Corn, Amish Rainbow* Bot. Int.
Cabbage, Red Acre* Lake Valley
Carrot, St. Valery Baker Creek
Cauliflower, Winter Dream Burpee
Cucumber, Pickle Barrel Hybrid Burpee
Gourd, Small Fancy Burpee
Lettuce, Heatwave Blend Burpee
Lettuce, Red Romaine Baker Creek
Lima Bean, Fordhook No. 242 Rohrer**
Luffa, Bathroom Sponge* Rohrer
Onion, Candy* Rohrer
Onion, Flat of Italy* Botanical Interests 
Onion, Yellow (Starting from Onion Sets)
Pea, Easy Peasy Burpee
Peanut, Jumbo* Rohrer
Peanut, Jumbo Virginia Burpee
Pepper, Hungarian Wax Lake Valley
Pepper, Jalapeno M Burpee
Pepper, Sweet Mix Burpee
Pepper, Topedo Rosso Baker Creek
Potato, Cobbler* (?) Rohrer
Potato, Red (Saved Potatoes)
Pumpkin, Big Max Burpee
Pumpkin, Cushaw (Saved Seeds)
Radish, Champion* Rohrer
Spinach, Salad Select Burpee
Squash, Early Golden Crookneck Burpee**
Squash, Vegetable Spaghetti Burpee
Squash, White Bush Scallop Baker Creek
Sweet Corn, Incredible* Rohrer
Tomato, Amish Paste Rohrer**
Tomato, Big Mama Burpee
Tomato, Fresh Salsa Burpee
Tomato, German Strawberry* Landis Valley
Tomato, Oxheart (Saved Seeds)
Tomato, Tomatoberry (Saved Seeds)
Watermelon, Sugar Baby* Rohrer
Zucchini, Black Beauty* Rohrer
Juliet Tomato in 2014
    Yup, that’s a lot of seeds and hopefully a lot of produce. Could our garden end up overrun with vines and impossible to weed?  Maybe.  Things happen.  Nature takes its own path, which is usually not the same path we plan to take, but it’s always worth the try.  You see, every year I live with the same dream: If we could only eat from our bountiful harvest, and a hopefully lucky hunting season.  It’s as if I can sense a magically shrinking grocery bill.  Alas, until bananas sprout forth from the red clay soil, and oranges thrive in the chilly winters of Pennsylvania, to the market we must go…

      Happy seed starting everyone, and hopefully the next time I check in with you with our garden update, they’ll be seed starter trays aplenty filled with our seeds for the upcoming spring planting season.  

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