Easter planting of radish, lettuce, peas and … tomatoes?

The weather recently is more like late May than middle of April. With temperatures over 80 degrees yesterday (record high temperature) and upper 70s today, you couldn’t ask for better weather on Easter weekend. Saturday I spent some time tilling up the garden beds. I’ve been neglecting the soil for a while now and in the years past I haven’t had a lot of time to spend in the garden when it was dry before jumping straight into planting. With the weather being so warm this year, I really didn’t have any excuses. I picked up 10 bags of Sta-Green Garden Soil from Lowes and worked two bags into the five beds that haven’t already had something planted.  By the end of the day, those beds looked pretty good and ready for planting.

10 bags of Sta-Green Garden Soil

10 bags of Sta-Green Garden Soil

Two bags of Sta-Green Garden Soil tilled into the bed.

Two bags of Sta-Green Garden Soil tilled into the bed.

Five beds tilled up and ready for planting

Five beds tilled up and ready for planting

So, my seedlings have not been looking good since I transplanted them into the bigger pots. I tried more water. I tried less water. I moved them outside to the deck where they could get some fresh air and real sun. Nothing I did seemed to help.

A tray of not so great looking tomatoes

A tray of not so great looking tomatoes

Yellow and sickly looking seedlings

Yellow and sickly looking seedlings

What to try next?  Well, with the warm weather we have been having I figured what the heck, let’s just plant them in the garden and see if that helps. So today, Easter Sunday, I decided to go ahead and plant half of the tomato seedlings.  I’ll try and nurse the remaining inside as a backup should a freeze or frost still happen this spring.

Before I get too far ahead of myself though, I needed to update the new garden planting plan for 2017.  Below is my plan for this year.

Garden planting plan for 2017

Garden planting plan for 2017

Today I planted two plants of each of the three tomato varieties, Brandy Boy Hybrid, Oh Happy Day Hybrid, and Cherry Baby Hybrid.  In addition to the tomatoes, I also planted some more seasonally appropriate vegetables.  I planted the Sugar Snap Peas, Radish and more lettuce.

Peas planted and ready to grow

Peas planted and ready to grow

Little tomatoes planted a little too early

Little tomatoes planted a little too early

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Time to order some seeds

First off, Happy New Year and welcome to the 2017 season of the garden blog!  I hope to do a better job keeping the blog updated this year, but a lot of that will depend on how busy I get with work and life.

The last couple years, I have been using some of the seeds I had purchased from past years.  While it did same me some money, last year I noticed some issues with germination and overall yields.  Irregardless, it was time to replenish the seed cache as I have used up most of the stock.

The order this year isn’t too much different than in years past but there are a few new comers and variety changes.  Most notably new this year is Kale.  We’re a bit late to the Kale bandwagon but have started adding it into the salad mixes and I must say I am liking the color and texture it brings.  It tastes decent and at least makes the salad look healthy right up until I dump too much dressing on it.

Other notables, while not entirely new, in the second year of growing sweet corn, I am going to a childhood favorite variety.  This year I am going to give ‘Kandy Korn’ a try.  I promise to not over plant the garden this year.

I’m also going to mix up the tomato varieties again this year.  ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Cherry Baby’ will join the favorite of the past few years ‘Brandy Boy’.

Finally a new variety of cucumber will be tried. I was not happy with the cucumbers last year as they just really never did much.  This time around I am going to give ‘Burpee Hybrid II’ a chance.  The claim of being disease resistant sounds very appealing to me as I seem to constantly have some mildew or fungus killing off my plants before they get to the end of the season.

Below is the full list of seeds and plants ordered.  I’ll pick up Sweet Potatoes locally closer to planting time.

Item Number: 55610A1 Pkt. (200 seeds)
Item Number: 51474A1 Pkt. (2 oz.)
Item Number: 69501C3 Pkts (1 of Each)
Item Number: 68072A1 Pkt. (100 seeds)
Item Number: 53595A1 Pkt. (30 seeds)
Item Number: 13789C75 plants each variety (225 plants total)
Item Number: 53512A1 Pkt. (300 seeds)
Item Number: 60855A1 Pkt. (1000 seeds)
Item Number: 62450A1 Pkt. (25 Seeds)
Item Number: 61101A1 Pkt. (35 seeds)
Item Number: 51205A1 Pkt. (25 seeds)
Item Number: 54310A1 Pkt. (25 seeds)
Item Number: 63480A1 Pkt. (20 seeds)
Item Number: 61861A1 Pkt. (3000 seeds)

Rolling the dice

I decided to take a chance on the garden today.  In the end, I think the risk will be pretty light. Today I planted about 85% of the garden.  What made me decide to take the chance?  With a 10-day forecast like looks like this?  How could I not take advantage and get the garden going.

A great forecast to start off the month of May

A great forecast to start off the month of May

(I couldn’t get the rest of the 10 days in the screen capture, but the remaining 3 days currently look just as warm.)

In the end, I managed to plant all but tomatoes, sweet potatoes and a basil plant.  The only reason I skipped those three was that I don’t have any sweet potato or basil plants yet and I still need to get some landscape fabric to put down before planting the tomatoes.

Armed with garden tools, seeds and the following planting plan I headed to the garden this morning.  Here is my original plan as designed back in March.

Original 2015 Planting Plan

Original 2015 Planting Plan

As many of you also know, plans have a way of falling apart as soon as they hit reality.  Apparently, I do not have the best spacial mental map of the vegetable plants and how much space they require.  I would think that after all these years in this garden, I would have it down by now and could work from memory, but guess not.  Working with the original plan and going from bed to bed, I was able to re-work and re-orient the plan to the following design. We’ll see how well it works as the plants grow.

Updated Planting Plan for 2015

Updated Planting Plan for 2015

Let’s get to planting this garden! First up green beans. This year I am actually planting both pole beans and bush beans. I’ve got big plans for canning green beans this summer and having a harvest of both kinds should well… I guess give me more green beans.

Ring of green bean seeds

Ring of green bean seeds

In addition to the new plants, I am also getting an second planting of some of the cool weather vegetables. Another round of spinach, lettuce and radish.

Shaking out some spinach seeds

Shaking out some spinach seeds

Time to get some of these plants out of the basement and into the garden. First up to escape the artificial light is the Brussels sprouts.

Basement Brussels Sprouts get liberated

Basement Brussels Sprouts get liberated

After planting Brussels sprouts, Sunflowers, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Bush Green Beans, Pole Green Beans, Cucumbers, Carrots, Lettuce, Radish and Spinach… I was tired. Oh wait, that wasn’t where I was going, after getting all those planted, the garden is about ready to explode with vegetables.

End result

End result

End result from a different angle

End result from a different angle

Now that all the new seeds are in the ground, I also took the time to check in on the other plants that already blazed the 2015 garden trail.

Radish with some lettuce and spinach in the background

Radish with some lettuce and spinach in the background

Peas are now starting to climb

Peas are now starting to climb

This years onion forest

This years onion forest

In the hopes to improve the pollinators in the neighborhood, I got this swanky Mason Bee house for Christmas. I placed it right back by the vegetable garden. If all goes well, I’ll hope to report later this summer of the new tenets.

An extra band to keep the house secure to the tree

An extra band to keep the house secure to the tree

And finally, I also updated the 2015 Planting Calendar.

Time to dust off the blog and start planning and planting

Yawn, I guess it is time to wake up from the lazy winter slumber and start getting ready for the 2015 gardening season.

We have had another cold and snowy winter here in the garden. Just like last year, we again had more than the normal below zero temperatures and above average snowfall. Below are a couple shots of the house after one of the heavier storms. No pictures of the cold. Cold is just cold and not very photogenic.

Plenty of snow in the front of the house

Plenty of snow in the front of the house

Plenty of snow in the back of the house.

Plenty of snow in the back of the house.

 

In the past week, almost all of the snow has finally melted and revealed the soggy, sloppy mess underneath. I was brave enough to venture through the backyard to get the first visit to the garden of 2015. I didn’t hang around too long as even the graveled walkways were spongy and soft. Aside from being very wet, the garden seemed to hold up pretty well this winter. I am hoping that I can get a year off from making bed repairs.

Finally the snow is gone

Finally the snow is gone

Another view of the soggy garden along with the rotting brussel sprout plants from last year

Another view of the soggy garden along with the rotting Brussels sprout plants from last year

With the snow melting and the temperatures warming, it was time to place the seed order for this year. A lot of repeats but there are a few new replacements. In particular, I am trying a whole new set of tomato varieties. Below is a picture showing the array of seed packets that have arrived so far.

This years seed purchase

This years seed purchase

 

With the seeds in hand and the calendar indicating that it is now about 7-8 weeks from the frost date here, I set out to get my new tomato seeds started. I am re-using the seed starting kit purchased last year from Burpee but this time around I am not bothering with those little compressed plugs and just using regular seed starting soil. The weather was so nice today, 55 degrees, that I even did the beginning messy steps outside on the deck. You know it has been a cold winter when you can be outside and happy in a short sleeve t-shirt at 55 degrees. 😉

Time to start planting some seeds

Time to start planting some seeds

Thirty two cells full of new soil and no waiting.  Step right up, who wants to be first.

Thirty two cells full of new soil and no waiting. Step right up, who wants to be first.

I don’t need 36 tomato plants. In the end, I ended up just planting two columns (8 cells) of each of the three varieties. In reality, I don’t need 24 either. I really only need about 8 plants total. So, if these guys take off and do well, I will be looking to find the extras a good home.

 

Planted, watered and fed.

Planted, watered and fed.

What? You don’t feed your tomatoes with Hershey’s Triple Layer Chocolate Hot Fudge cake mix when you plant the seeds? It is the secret to sweet tomatoes. 🙂

New home for the next couple months.

New home for the next couple months.

Now that the tomatoes are all planted, they have all been moved to their new home in the basement. I was a bit skeptical that it would work out but last year they seemed to do pretty well. One improvement that I am planning is to get a second light which will cover the full depth of the seed tray.  Last year, once the plants got started, they kept leaning back and forth to try and get to the light.

Getting an earlier start and hopefully a warmer spring and I (along with family, coworkers and neighbors) should be enjoying some fresh tomatoes in 4-5 months.

The sweet potatoes arrive fashionably late

I was beginning to worry about the last item of my seed/plant order. Everything on my order had shipped except for the sweet potato plants.  Well, finally they arrived yesterday.  With a touch of thunder in the distance, I wanted to get these plants into the ground as soon as possible.  The soil was probably a bit too wet, so I tried to work the ground as little as possible.  Instead of planting the plants in hills or ridges, I just tried to dig a hole as deep as I could.    Each hole was close to 10-12 inches deep.  I’ll try and mound up the dirt around the plants as they grow to give them room to produce more potatoes.

The Sweet Potatoes finally arrive

The Sweet Potatoes finally arrive

Digging some deep holes

Digging some deep holes

Twelve plants in all

Twelve plants in all

Winter break is almost over

While you wouldn’t know it by looking at the weather outside, we have now officially entered into spring.  So, that means it is time to wake up, stretch and start planning the 2014 garden.

To start, I took a short survey of the garden beds to see how they fared this winter.  Sad to say, three of the four originally constructed beds are going to require more repairs again this year before planting.  As can be seen by the pictures below, the problems are the same as that of the past couple years.

20140322-155910.jpg

Broken bed corner

20140322-155919.jpg

Second broken bed corner

Now, on to more exciting planning, I have started laying out my plan for what and where to plant this years vegetables.  I started off with last years plan and attempted to work in a bit of crop rotation along with my experience in plant spacing.  I had a number of crops that were planted too closely together and while I am sure to do that again this year, I am really trying to learn and give each vegetable its space.

2014 Planting Plan

2014 Planting Plan

Finally today I have done some shopping and preparing my list of seed purchases.  Looks like costs have gone up, not that I should be all that surprised since it seems the cost of everything goes up each year.  I really need to look into saving my seeds from year to year and save some of that money.  I tend to leave them in the garage or some other inhospitable place rendering them less ideal for spring planting.  When seed packets were just a couple bucks it wasn’t that big of a deal but with prices getting up to $5 a packet, the total seed order is getting quite expensive.

Planting Plan

This year I put a little more effort into the plan of what to plant where.  For my day job as a software engineer, it is not uncommon for me to use a tool called Microsoft Visio to create diagrams of various system and software designs.  It is a lot easier to move little shapes around a computer screen to get an idea what changes make for a better plan than to build the systems and then move then make the changes.  Obviously, that makes sense when planning out a garden as well.  Below is the plan I have been working against this spring.

Garden Planting Plan for 2013

Garden Planting Plan for 2013

My goal is to revisit this plan periodically and update it with any changes I have made as well as refine the amount of space required by each of the plants.  This will help in future years planning to make sure I don’t over/under estimate the amount of space required for each plant.