Our 2023 garden: That was fast!!! and planning ahead

We had a light snowfall last night, making everything all white and fluffy this morning.

The outside cats didn’t mind it at all!

I counted 21 this morning.

Meanwhile, indoors, we have our first signs of spring.

When I checked the trays this morning, three out of four of them had onions sprouting. When I came back about an hour later, there were sprouts in the fourth tray!

I’m absolutely amazed by two things. One is, how quickly they started to germinate.

The other is, how much cat hair there is, all over the soil surface. These trays had lids on them. Where did all that cat hair come from? I mean, Beep Beep practically lives on top of the lights. She naps on them, rolls around on them, and even hugs them, so yeah… I can see some of her fur drifting down… but getting under the lids?

Yesterday, I marked on our communal calendar, two sets of dates. One was the number of weeks counted back from our last average frost date, June 2. This way, we can see at a glance that something that needs to be started 10 weeks before last frost, needs to be started around March 24, while something that needs only 4 weeks can wait until May 5th.

The other dates I marked was number of days counted back from our average first frost date, which is Sept. 10. We have exactly 100 days between our average last spring and first fall frosts. That’s the growing season we can mostly count on for frost sensitive plants.

For things that have really long days to maturity, it’s that “days before first frost” that we need to consider. If, for example, I have a gourd that requires 110 days to maturity, that’s May 23. If it needs 7-10 days to germinate, I would start them at least a week before that.

If I have something than need 90 days to maturity, that falls on June 12 and, by then, I could get away with direct sowing, instead.

One of the really useful tools I’ve found is the Farmer’s Almanac planting calendar. Most planting calendars just give number of weeks before first frost, because they’re meant to be generic. I can get that information from the seed packet. Farmer’s Almanac, however, lets you input your area code (or zip code, if you’re in the US). You can even put in your city (ha!) and province/state. It will find the climate station nearest you, then give you the calendar dates for starting indoors and transplanting, or seeding outdoors. It even gives you the choice of dates based on frost date, or on moon dates. Oh, and I discovered something very handy when I hit the print button on the web page. It allows you to remove things from the list that you aren’t growing, which greatly reduced the number of pages that got printed out!

It’s still a bit generic, of course, but the date range is pretty wide. For example, it tells me bell peppers should be started between March 24 and April 7. We have five varieties of bell peppers, and four of them are early varieties, so we could use the information on the seed packet to figure out which ones need to be started in March, and which can wait until April.

Of course, they can’t cover everything, so we still need to make adjustments. For example, their calendar says to start winter squash outdoors between June 16 and July 14. With some varieties, we could do that, but we’ve got some large varieties of winter squash that need more time to fully mature, so we would be better off starting them indoors. If we use the biodegradable pots that can be buried, that would reduce transplant shock.

We have always started summer squash indoors. I think, this year, we might direct seed them. The calendar says zucchini can be planted anywhere between June 16 and July 14, which is when we can expect the soil to finally be warm enough.

As for the things we’ll need to start the earliest, the herbs (except dill, which is direct sown) will need to be started at the same time as bell peppers; in March. The eggplants and tomatoes can be started in early April, melons can be started in early May, while pumpkins and watermelon can be started in mid May.

The direct sowing dates are pretty interesting for some things. If we decide to try growing radishes again, they can be direct seeded in early April – at the same time we’d be starting eggplant and tomatoes indoors. Carrots can be planted in late April, early May, which would be about the same time we’d be starting melons indoors.

All of which needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the calendar says to start onion seeds outdoors in early May. Sets, sure, but seeds? Nope. There’s a reason people out here start their onion seeds indoors in January! Also, it has dates to start lettuce and chard indoors, but none for direct seeding. Who starts lettuce and chard indoors? I mean, sure, you can grow them indoors, but for transplant?

As it stands now, though, we won’t need to start anything else indoors until March 24, at the earliest.

That gives us February and most of March to get the materials we need and build a removeable door and frame, to keep the cats out of the living room, and out of the seedlings!

We’ll also need to build a barrier to block an opening in the shelf to the left of the door in the image.

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