Friday, February 27, 2009

That time of year... almost.

It is almost that time again! The temperature is starting to be almost tolerable, I see drip-drip-drip from the roof for a good part of each day, and the sun is still pretty darned bright at 4:30pm. So what if we have 6 foot snowbanks and a good couple of feet still on the ground?

I've ordered my seed starting and transplanting mixes, in giant bags which my husband lugged downstairs; oops, guess that will be a multi-year supply. I've also got a big box in my office containing the smallest size of the new Dot Pots we carry, and plastic trays and lids (plus seeds, of course). I've been saving the industrial-size cardboard toilet paper tubes we use here at work (hooray for recycling!) and will use those for transplants - I figure that the thick cardboard , while bottomless, will be a fair bulwark to the cutworms, and I know it will rot away pretty quickly, so my plants roots have plenty of time to grow. I've got my grow lights set up down cellar in a permanent location on my potters bench (apparently it was once a woodworking bench), and the heat mats in the same place, ready to go. I have a zillion seed packets to organize, some of last year's dirt to sweep up (it's an unfinished cellar, largely ignored unless we need to check the oil burner, and we don't have cats, so that's no big deal), and a bunch of labels to write out, and I'll be ready to go!

I always plant WAY too many seedlings. This year I'm going to try to keep it constrained. I'll plant a couple of tomatillos (green salsa is SO delicious!), and a couple of husk cherries (they didn't ripen before frost last year, and I am excited to try them), and some peppers and eggplants first - it seems that they need just a bit more time than tomatoes - a two week headstart on the tomatoes gives me good luck with the other members of the family Solanaceae. Last year I think I ended up with 90 tomato plants. This year I'm going to try to plant only the 40+/- heirloom tomatoes that I'll use in my garden, and just a few to share, because some of those poor little plants went to waste. I usually plant 2 seeds per cell, but I think I might try 1, and see if I waste less. I just can't kill a seedling, I know I should, but I just can't.

This year I'm planting my cucumber and squash seeds indoors a couple of weeks before they can go out, as well as some sunflowers and morning glories for the flower bed. We have a chipmunk problem in my yard - they live under our compost heap, and they LOVE those pumpkin seeds. So, rather than set up the bucket trap this year (because apparently I don't like to kill seedlings, but have no problem dispatching chipmunks), I am going to start with plants. I think they'll do better this way, and so will the chipmunks.

I sure hope the weather works out this summer. Last July and August it was so rainy that I had very poor yields on most things, and many of my interesting heirloom tomatoes just didn't get ripe. Ah, but that's beyond my control, and I'm very lucky to work here at Johnny's, since we test many seeds and employees can reap the fruits of those tests.

Yes, this is the time of year to start getting ready, but also to practice patience and constraint. I know that if I plant my seedlings too early, they'll get leggy, which can weaken the adult plants. Plus, I'll be tempted to plant them early, which can be dangerous up here in Central Maine where Jack Frost likes to wear out his welcome, kind of like those relatives who show up out of nowhere around the Fourth of July. So, a few more weeks, and I can get planting.


Anonymous said...

Yay! :) This is our first year starting our veggies from seeds. Although, I was wondering if we may have planted too soon. We live in Northern Virginia and started our seeds about 3 weeks ago. Did we start too soon??

Anonymous said...

I'm getting ready to place my seed order, when I will order too much for my 12x12 plot because my eyes are always bigger than my garden!

I'm in SE NH, and have a question about bulb fennel - I really love this stuff, but I am reading that it is a very poor companion and inhibits the growth of just about everything else I grow - beans, tomatoes, etc. I want to plant it in my annual flower bed - will it inhibit the growth of my flowers as well, or will it be safe there?

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie, I too live in NOVA and perhaps you did start your seeds a bit early. I did the same thing last year and set the plants out too early.(April 15th) This year I will start the seeds in a week or so (although the peppers and eggplant have already gone in). I also have built a heated greenhouse this year so I am not so much worried about the weather.

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

Hi Stephanie,

You are probably fine for your area - zone 7ish, right? You probably get your last frost around the end of April? So you should be fine! They might be a little leggy, but just bury those tomatoes and peppers and eggplants deep and they'll come out OK. Thanks!!

Hi Heidi,

I've planted bulb fennel among my onions and it seems to do OK - but I've yet to have it actually create a bulb, but I think that's because I overcrowd. You might give our knowledgable call center a buzz at 1-877-JOHNNYS and get a more definitive answer. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I find this time of year sooo frustrating! The sun has been out for a few days now, and when I look up I feel its warmth. However, when I look back down again, I am surrounded by snow. I have seen spring bulbs poking through in other people's garden, but my are still under at least a foot of snow. I'm ready to start shoveling the snow off my gardens.

the webmaster at Johnny's Selected Seeds said...

Hi Anonymous,

I was in the same boat as you a few weeks ago. However, things have melted and my bulbs are up at this point. I hope you're in the same boat! This time of year speeds right by, and just think, that snow prevents you from having to mow the lawn too early.