The SE section of Pennsylvania has been inundated with rain for the last two weeks making it hard to get things done but I managed to get all my eggplants, peppers and tomatoes in the ground. I faced an issue of having two many tomato seedlings so I found myself planting some straight in the ground in out of the way places to give them a chance to fend for themselves. I gave them a little compost and organic fertilizer and a tomato cage and said Good Luck! The rest found homes in my raised beds as planned and a few Early Girls went in pots, as the seed packets indicated they would do well. I was tempted to plant my peppers two to a hole based on some recent youtube videos I've watched on the subject but ultimately went with one per square foot. The bed looks crowded, but the peppers are all westward facing so while they may be in the shade of their tomato neighbors in the morning they will get plenty of sun. The leftover plants I had went into some planters on my patio.
In other news my spring garden bed (kales, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radish, carrot, chard, arugula, bibb) is doing well. It kind of looks like I randomly through things in this bed, but I sware there was a plan when I started :-). The radishes interspersed between the kale did horribly. I harvested them a few days ago and had teeny tiny radishes. I don't give up easily so I planted three new radish plots elsewhere to see if I can do better before the summer heat gets here and makes growing radish hard for other reasons. I placed one group directly in the ground in an area that probably has very infertile soil, one in a large pot, and one in the raised bed. I made sure to work the soil in all three locations better than I had previously done. The arugula is already growing back and I'll get a second harvest soon. Next year I need to grow more than one square foot! The kale is looking healthy and will be harvested in a week. I believe it's cut and come again so I'll try that method and see if it regenerates as I've heard. Brussels and Cauliflower both seem to be developing well and I look forward to those harvests in a few more weeks (supposedly). The carrots seem randomly interspersed, but I used seed tape and it claims they are properly spaced so I won't be thinning them. I fear that they are going to have a similar fate to the radishes because I didn't loosen up the soil enough for proper root formation. Time will tell.
My lettuce raised bed has now been harvested three times! It has mesclun, gourmet blend, black seeded simpson and bibb. I never thought I'd get excited about lettuce but they are beautiful to look at and taste pretty good as well. After my next mesclun green harvest (next week) I'm going to pull those and seed in some Heatwave blend I purchased in advance of hotter summer days. As I harvest the heads of bibb lettuce (about eight of them) I'm going to seed some heat resistant varieties of romaine. My goal is to see if I can keep greens on our table from May through October. So far I've done it, but I know July and August will be challenging. The bed I use for lettuce gets the least amount of direct sun each day and I figure that may help my cause. I'm considering investing in a shade cloth as well once we reach the 90s. I'm really enjoying growing the variety of greens and can't wait to try some more varieties in the fall.
In other news, all my direct seeded plants have sprouted! Zucchini, Squash, Cucumbers (three varieties), Early Acorn SQuash, Spaghetti Squash, Pole Beans, Bush Beans, Early Bush Scallop Squash, Peas, Patio Corn, Pumpkin, Watermelon, Cantaloupe. I've gotten some t-posts installed by my zucchini and squash and I will attempt to grow them vertically up the posts. I seeded some Okra the other day, and was considering growing a little plot of Soybeans but I'm having trouble finding seeds and don't want to pay S&H for one seed packet.
My potatoes are growing like gang busters in their 20 gallon grow tubs. Excited to see what they do.
Wow! In the past week we had temperatures reach the mid eighties! I was away on business but convinced my wife to water the spring crops on my behalf. (She does support the garden, she's just busy with two little kids)
When I came back the lettuce had seemingly doubled in size and my arugula was ready to harvest. We quickly adjusted the weeks meal plans and took my square foot of arugula from garden to table within thirty minutes, talk about fresh! Some of my lettuce was also starting to think about bolting, so I harvested from an inch up and what a bowl of greens I got! We washed and stored so we can eat this over the next week or so. By the time we finish it I expect to have more. I'll pretend that I did that on purpose. :-). It was largely a blend of mesclun greens and a gourmet leaf blend. I do have some head varieties in the garden but they aren't ready for harvest yet. If my plans go as I hope I should be getting one to two salads from the garden each week through Spring and early summer. I do plan on attempting to grow a "Heatwave" Blend in July and August in the shadiest spot of my garden as well to see if it is possible to provide salad greens all season long
In other gardening news, my peppers, eggplants and tomatoes are all being hardened off this week. Temperature highs are in the seventies all week and I plan on planting the seedlings on Mother's Day. They are desperate to get out of their solo cup homes! I had enough extra tomato plants to give a few away to coworkers and to my children's preschool teachers. Hopefully they do well in their new homes. It's always hard to give them away, not because I don't like sharing, but I wonder if they will receive the care they deserve lol.
As far as direct sowing, my bush beans, pole beans, and squash have sprouted from the ground. Basil, cilantro and dill seedlings have also popped up as I planted them as border crops (one per side) of various beds. Beets and carrots are establishing themselves, and my kale and spinach is really taking off.
It seems like I waited forever, and now I finally get to enjoy some of the fruits of my labor, and its only May! The weather has certainly been a challenge, but getting to watch crops grow through most of April has been a pleasure.
Apart from the lettuce and radishes, I will have to patiently wait through May before I can start adding some variety to my vegetable diet. Kale, Peas, Swiss Chard, Beets Cauliflower should all become part of the menu in early June. I feel like this insanely cold spring has pushed back "what could have been" by about two weeks.
After what seems like the coldest April in history I was able to get my spring seedlings in the ground (on or about 4/15) and they have finally stabilized and perked up a bit. Hope to be harvesting some spinach, lettuce and radish in early May for my first ever Spring Crop! They may not look like much in this picture but the kale and spinach are doing well. I have a square foot of arugula I should be able to harvest soon. My mesclun mix is at about four inches so I hope to take my first cutting from that in another week. My Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are looking happy, and the peas I sowed a week ago are popping out of the ground. Radish, carrot, and beets have also sprouted from the ground. Finally, some potatoes I placed in my 20 gallon grow tubs popped up! I'm super excited to try and pull out some new potatoes in about 60 days for a nice meal. My broccoli seedlings, apparently less cold tolerant, succumbed to a cold spring night.....I've placed some bibb lettuce in their place, and will try them again in the fall.
I built chicken wire cages to go around all these leafy crops to keep the rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks away! Just the other day, I saw a squirrel dig out an onion bulb I planted as a border crop in a summer bed, chew on it and spit it out! It could at least have put it back where it found it. Hopefully it learned its lesson and leaves the rest alone.
Feeling very proud that my spring crops seem to be doing well and with the forecast showing weather warming over the coming ten days, I decided to sow some summer crops before my traditional starting date of Mother's Day. If on Mother's Day they haven't popped up I'll sow them again. I sowed my squashes, watermelon, pole beans, bush beans, cilantro, basil, dill, chives. This coming weekend I hope to sow some cucumbers and zucchini. I got some okra started inside with the intent of transplanting it where my beets currently are in June after harvesting the beets. I'll be starting to bring my tomato, pepper and eggplant outside to harden them off this weekend as well. My peppers will include shishito, jalapeno, pinot noir and CA Wonder. My tomatoes will include Arkansas Traveler, Brandywine Pink, Early Girl, Cherry, Baby Boomer, Sungold, San Marzano. With this variety I hope to have tomatoes from early July through first frost. The seedlings
The tomato seedlings are 12" tall and ready to go! The peppers, always slower to germinate are a respectable 4-6", but more importantly they look healthy.
Hopefully in a few more weeks the spring garden will be grown up and I'll be starting my cut and come again for the kale. I'll be placing some new spinach seeds in the ground this weekend, as I expect that I'll harvest the whole crop of spinach at once. A lot does not go a long way! This year is all about learning how much of what I should be growing! I should probably have tripled my spinach, and probably could have lived with four kale plants instead of 9, but they were so pretty! Also, who needs three brussels sprouts plants....probably not me...lol. We shall see what happens.
With the garden beds built and filled and winter weather reclaiming the landscape there wasn't much else to do but sit and browse seed catalogs....a dangerous game with spring so far away.
I had a decent amount of seeds from 2016 left and decided I must use that before ordering new seeds. Fortunately my supply was all summer plants and I intended a spring garden! I added the following to my arsenal: Premier Kale, Lacinato Kale, Red Russian Kale, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Oven Roaster Brussels Sprouts, Spicy Mesclun Mix, Sweet Mesclun Mix, Black Seeded Simpson, Bibb, Radish Blend, Rainbow Carrot blend, parsnips and Sugar Daddy Peas. Needless to say I was a happy guy.
My summer supply already included Shooting Star Eggplant, California Wonder Peppers, Pinot Noir Peppers, Big Guy Jalapenos, Brandywine Pink Tomato, Baby Boomer Tomato, Sungold Tomato, Iznik Cucumber, Brown Russian Cucumber, Sour Gherkin Cucumber, Summer Squash and Zucchini. I managed to make room in my basket for a pickling cucumber, Blue Lake 47 Bush Beans, Early White Scallop Squash, Acorn Squash, Sugar Baby Watermelon, Spaghetti Squash and two more tomato varieties, Arkansas Traveler and Early Girl. It doesn't take a genius to see that those beds are going to be crowded if I'm not careful.
With March rolling in finally, I got the spring crops I felt could be transferred started under a grow light as well as some eggplant, tomatoes and peppers! One tray shown below.
With some unseasonably warm weather in January I decided to get outside to get the garden ready for spring, My wife and I came to an agreement where I could take over a section of our backyard that wouldn't reduce our kids play area. I settled on five 6'x4' garden beds for my first season. Seems like ample room for a productive vegetable garden! I set myself up for easy removal if the whole gardening experiment goes bust, or easy expansion if it goes well! By connecting the beds and widening slightly I easily can add 60 square feet.
I intentionally used untreated pine for my beds to minimize my initial costs and prove my garden concept to skeptical family.
A family friend delivered 2 yards of good compost/soil mix and after a backbreaking day the beds were done!
Temperatures this weekend were remarkable and I was fortunate to get the project done in this window of time. A nice weekend would not be seen again for some time.