Out With The Old, In With The New–Gardening Wrap-up

The first post of the new year!  I am excited to get gardening again.  And frankly, the weather is so warm I may just do that very soon.

I want to offer a few garden observations, and some actions that I will perform differently this year based on my gardening experiences of last year.

–It’s a tradition now that we head out to Portland Nursery around Valentine’s Day to purchase seeds.  They usually have a good selection at that time, and we stock up for the year.

–Potato starts must be purchased before May 1st–no one has them for sale after this date.

-Stats from last year:  –last killing frost in the spring:  March 12th (2008 it was Mar. 31st)

— first killing frost in the fall:  December 3rd (2008 it was Dec. 14th)

–reliably above 40 degrees at night:  May 13th (2008 it was May 1st)

— reliably above 50 degrees at night:  July 1st (2008 it was June 26th)

–reliably above 55 degrees at night:  never (2008 it was never)

–days of rain in June:  6 days (2008 it was 7 days)

— days of rain in July:  1 day (2008 it was 4 days)

— days of rain in August:  4 days (2008 it was 9 days)

I use this information to help me determine when to start which types of seeds, and also when I can safely plant seeds outside for germination, and for tender plants when I can expect them to have the temperatures they need to get the fruits to mature.

–Grafting of new fruit trees happens around the first weekend in March.

–I will start my canna lilies indoors under light during the month of March to plant out when it warms up later in the spring.

–Always wear eye protection when pruning.  I scratched one of my eyes last year being stupid and not wearing eye protection, and it hurt like crazy, so be smart.

–I start most of my seeds indoors by March 14th.  These include the tender summer plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

–I soaked sweet pea seeds overnight, then planted them outdoors in pots in a protected spot by March 22nd.  They bloomed great this year, and were flowering by June 12th.

–I started our first salad greens bed outside under plastic on March 21st, and we were eating salad by May 2nd.

–I put my garden hoses out by May 28th.

–Hanging baskets can be planted and put out most years by the middle of May.  This can vary if you have a protected spot for them or not.

–I plant my tomatoes out in June.  Some people plant them out way earlier and use Wall o-waters or other plastic covers for them.  I have used this method in the past, and in my opinion it’s a lot of work for not much in return in terms of getting ripe tomatoes quicker.  Tomatoes won’t ripen until it hits 55 degrees at night–they ripen at night, so take a look at my temperature records and draw your own conclusion as to when you should plant.  I prefer to use as little work as possible to get a reasonably good result–you might choose to do otherwise.  I then plant the peppers and eggplant out after the tomatoes, because it needs to be 60 degrees at night for these plants to produce mature fruit.  I only get good results by growing them under plastic, because it’s usually too cold here at night.  Cucumbers and pumpkins I plant out after the eggplant and peppers–it works much better to chit the seeds first, then plant them out.  Check out my earlier post from last spring on how to do this.

–Cukes:  I will plant fewer fresh eating cuke plants so that I can add more pickling cukes, so that I can preserve some.

–date of first ripe tomatoes:  August 9th (2008 it was August 11th)  The earliest I ever had them in a good   year was July 22nd.

–For my birthday I am asking for a compost screen.  This is a frame with metal screen in it, and you throw shovelfuls of compost at it, and what makes it through the screen are the very fine, finished compost particles that are perfect for starting seed beds outside.

–Diatomaceous earth is an organic method for killing flea beetles.  I had some on some potatoes I grew in 2008, and they wintered over in the soil and went after my tomato starts this year that I had planted where the potatoes were previously, but this nipped them in the bud right away before they did much damage to the plants.  You can also plant radishes nearby, because they like radishes better than tomatoes.  The beetles go after new growth on the tomatoes, so if you get them  covered with the earth right away, the rest of the plant should be fine.

–You can plant basil starts outdoors in June.  Last year I could have started pole and bush bean seeds outdoors in May.

–I am done with planting most brassicas.  We get cabbage moths here, and it is a ton of work to try to get them to grow.  After having tried for a couple of years, with the amount of work it takes I think I’d rather try something that will produce a lot and is easier to grow.  A nearby friend grows great broccoli and has no trouble at all from cabbage moths, so perhaps it depends on where you live.

–Going to try a new cherry tomato.  The ‘Super Sweet 100s” mature early and taste great, but they split badly.  ‘Gardener’s Delight” is supposed to be a similar cherry tomato that does not split,

–If you are planning to bring green tomatoes in to store and ripen for the winter, pick them no later than Oct. 1st.  If you wait longer, they get damaged by the rain and will rot inside.

–If you pot up paperwhite bulbs in a deep container by Nov. 7th, water and then put them in the garage,  you can bring them indoors in December and they will be in bloom for the winter holidays.

–We were eating green salads from the garden everyday through Nov. 30th–growing salad greens under plastic will help your grocery bill tremendously.

–I’ll be setting up my gardening notebooks for the new year soon–see my post from last January on how to do that.  I like to write in general in the top margin of the calendar page when I need to fertilize and prune roses and clematis, and also care for my outside bulbs–mostly when to fertilize them.  Once that’s in the calendar, I have an idea of what I need to do, and can fit it in whenever I have time during the month.

Hope this helps you have a great garden this year!

If you liked this post, leave a comment–what are you going to do differently in your garden this year?

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