Saturday, January 11, 2014

Seeds of Spring

The seed catalogue arrived last week, and seedling growing supplies are in at the stores. Here's a summary of what I've found over the years of starting vegetable gardens on the west side of the Cascades in the Pacific NW:

Despite fears of 'starting too soon' (and ending up with spindly plants in root-bound containers) I always start late. So I'm going to order my seeds this week.
I can never start tomatoes or peppers too early. One year I ended up potting all the way up to gallon containers and they were gorgeous! We had a really good year that year.
I've tried starting squash/pumpkins indoors. Really uneven results. Direct seeding seems to work the best.
Even when starting indoors, early varieties of tomatoes work out the best. In particular I've had good results from Stupice, Legend, and pretty much every cherry/grape/etc. tomato I've tried. Main season tomatoes have always been a disappointment. Even when they get ripe in time, often the tomatoes succumb to various diseases.
Want to try an odd variety? More and more nurseries are offering Indigo Rose and other rare or unusual varieties that I've only managed previously to find in catalogues. Rather than fuss with a seed packet, buy a single plant. It costs more, sure, but there's far less labor, and it takes up less space in your garden (one plant vs. a whole row of something that may or may not work.)
Yes, you can make the soil in your garden too fertile. Guilty as charged. I have to set aside some space for plants that like impoverished or average soils to do well. Not all plants are heavy feeders. Blame my love of tomatoes for wanting to make the entire plot tomato-friendly.
You gotta develop a strategy of weed suppression that works for you. Not a weed-pulling schedule. Those fall apart, and not just because of time constraints. As your veggies get bigger and their roots spread, it gets harder and harder to work among them without causing excessive damage to them. For me, I mulch with weeds and compost. That may have to change this year (due to the rich soil issue) to mulching with straw, chips, plastic, newspapers ... I'll figure something out.
Row covers are your friend, not just to protect the young plants from unpredictable weather, but it also foils a lot of pests. Commercial farmers use it, and you can benefit from that because producers of the material keep the price attractively low so that the commercial farmers can afford to cover a whole field with the stuff and still make a profit on their veggies. Shop around before you buy, and do some research on the various types. I like the white, very thin stuff ... but you have to have every weed off the ground because when you go to pull it up, it'll tear and snag. So good housekeeping will allow you to use the same material year after year.
There's no such thing as too much shed and shelf and potting bench space. Now is the time to get organized. Pick a dry weather day, get out there in the freezing cold and mud and make sure you've got your duckies in a row.
Weeds grow year 'round here. Go get 'em!

I'll be ordering my seeds soon. I'll post my seed order when I make it. Happy gardening!

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