Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Risking the Freeze

I went ahead and put out my zucchini and crookneck squash transplants on Sunday, despite the risk of freezing. The Weather Channel predicts 31 degrees on Saturday night, but the days will be sunny and several will be in the 70's. The prediction on Sunday had been 28 degrees on Thursday night, but that has now been revised to 33 degrees. If the forecast remains like that, I will ask my wife to cover them with something (I am in the Netherlands for 2.5 weeks, which is why I went ahead and put the transplants out; they were already crowding the containers).

Besides the transplants, I planted a variety of seeds in the garden. Again, just experimenting, but I put a couple of tomato, a couple of jalapeno, some marigolds, okra, and some squash in the ground. I know it is still early, but I figure if I get lucky and we don't have another freeze, I will really have a good head start.

But, hedging my bets, I also planted the same variety of seeds indoors in pots. Even if they don't survive outside, when I return to Texas on March 5th I should have some decent transplants to put out. That is, if my wife remembers to water them.

Besides the broccoli that is really growing quickly, the cilantro has really taken off as the weather has started to warm. I planted a few seeds as an experiment, and while they started out looking not too impressive, now they look really healthy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Broccoli Seedlings are Planted

I finished double-digging my 5x25 foot bed today, working in several cubic feet of compost and about a pound of all-purpose fertilizer. I fly to Europe on Monday, and I will be there for 3 weeks, so it is important to get plants out before I leave. I put out 16 broccoli seedlings, but they are really tiny. I would have liked for them to have been a little bigger, but I think they would have outgrown the flats by the time I get back. It was difficult to plant them, because the topsoil in the flats kept falling apart when I would try to get the seedlings out. I have to remember to put my broccoli in bigger containers next year before I transplant them. There is a chance of freezing tonight, and I am afraid some of them will go into shock and I will lose them. I did plant them deep; up to their tiny leaves. I think if it doesn't freeze tonight and they can take root, they will be OK.

If they make it past this first week or two, I expect them to take off. The plants that I put in back in August have really started growing. I am harvesting heads every couple of days now. In the fall I am going to put in quite a few plants and just let them go through the winter. I know that come February, I will have broccoli to harvest.

I have a dilemma on my other plants. The 10-day forecast shows 1 night below freezing. We are nearly past freezing weather here, and up until today there were no days of really cold weather in the 10-day forecast. I have a number of other transplants that have really outgrown their flats. There are some tomatoes, some jalapenos, yellow squash and zucchinis. I am afraid if I put them out, the freeze will get them all and I will have to replant in March. But, I will probably go ahead and put them out, and just remember to not use those flats next year. Plants just outgrow them too quickly. I may put some clear plastic containers over the top of them for a miniature greenhouse.

The peas that I transplanted are doing OK, but neither the carrots nor the pea seeds that I put in the ground have sprouted. I expect that when I get back from Europe, they will be coming on strong.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First Bed is Planted

I am recovering from the flu, but decided to spend the day working on the garden. To start off, I planted rosemary in one of the beds in front of the house, two more Flame Seedless Grapes on the back fence, and put in one more Celeste Fig. I spread a little dog poop around each planting (except for the rosemary), because that keeps the dogs from digging them up. I then double-dug a 5x6 foot area in the garden, working in 1 cubic foot of composted manure and 2 cubic feet of compost.

I checked the 10-day forecast, and freezing weather is not predicted. So I decided to go ahead and put out some of my more cold-tolerant plants. The 20 sugar snap peas that I had planted in flats had only produced 3 nice looking plants, so I went ahead and transplanted them. Then, I directly planted in the ground around 70 more pea seeds - all 3 inches apart. I was nicking each one with a hacksaw blade, but about halfway through I stopped doing that as it was really slow. Besides, I will have some with nicks, and some without, so I can see if it really made a difference.

I was only planting the seeds about a half inch deep, but when I had planted about 50 seeds I looked at the directions and it said to plant 2 inches deep. Oops. The last 20 went in much deeper. I had been punching holes in the dirt with a really large nail. In hindsight, it would have been much easier to dig rows.

I also planted about 4 rows of carrots (but not over the spot where I worked in the manure). It is very difficult to control placement of carrot seeds, because they are so small. I was trying to plant a seed every 2-3 inches, but sometimes I ended up dumping 5 seeds in one spot. I was first dropping them by hand, but found it much easier to control by dropping them directly out of the packet. I did plant these in rows, at about half an inch deep.

I finished off by sprinkling about a quarter pound of general purpose fertilizer over the bed, and then watered it. I head back to Europe in 8 days, and I don't expect the peas to have come up by then. Hopefully the carrots will be sprouting so I can thin them out. I am in Europe for 3 weeks this next trip, and the carrots really need to be thinned out before then.

Next up will be the broccoli transplants. I have about 15 that will be ready to plant before I travel. The broccoli plants that I planted last August are really starting to produce; hopefully these transplants can get a crop in before it gets hot. But next year, I know I can plant broccoli at any time during the winter and have a crop coming in during the first couple of months of the year.

I also have lots of seedlings sprouting in flats. I have summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and jalapenos all coming up now. It is going to be a tough call whether to plant them outdoors before I head back to Europe. I probably won't risk it, but then they will be really crowding the containers by the time I get back.

One final note. I put in quite a bit of Giant Liriope in the front beds for landscaping. The rabbits love it, and have munched it down to the ground. I have sprayed them with various rabbit repellants to no avail. So today, I placed some dog poop under the mulch in front of each one. I am hoping this turns them off enough to leave the plants alone.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Wet Seedlings Recovered

Just an update to the previous post, when it looked like my entire broccoli planting had drowned. I got the flats dried out, and the plants all came back. I currently have them indoors near a window. Of the 20 seeds that I planted, I now have 14 decent looking broccoli seedlings. The snap peas didn't fare as well; only 5 of the 20 sprouted. I read somewhere that you should nick pea seeds with a file to let water penetrate. I didn't do that, so I don't know if that's a trick I needed to apply. I have never grown peas before.

I have had some broccoli outside since August, and it is just now really taking off. I have to remember that next year; broccoli can survive some pretty cold temperatures. Next year I will start the plants indoors in late summer, and then transplant them outside just as soon as the weather cools off a bit. If I plant in rich soil, I should be able to get a crop in before the weather turns cold. But even if I don't, as soon as it warms back up it should take off and produce a crop then.

I planted some tomato, jalapeno, marigolds, and (as an experiment) one okra seed in containers about a week ago. Today, the okra and some of the tomatoes have broken ground. I probably should have started the tomatoes earlier, as Home Depot already has decent sized plants for transplanting outdoors. I planted the okra in a big pot and I have it in the garage where it can get some light from a window. It is much too early for okra; it really excels in the heat. But I thought I would get the plant up to a foot or so in height and then try to transplant it.

I have had the flu, so I haven't been able to work the mulch into the soil. I am hoping that I will feel like it this weekend. At the latest, I need to transplant all of the broccoli and peas outside, and plant my carrots, by next weekend. I fly to Europe for 3 weeks the following Monday, so I need to get the cold tolerate plants in the ground.