It was a busy year! I thought it was about time I let you all know how the season turned out.
Not a single bolter of any of my alliums growing from seed! The Ailsa Craigs did have some pungency and were not super mild, I believe this is typical for Northeast soils. It depends on the sulfur content of the soil.
I still have some Cabernet onions in storage. Contrary to other reports, the Ailsa Craigs lasted 4 months for me before they were gone, without spoilage. We were eating them on Thanksgiving!
Thanks for reading and I hope you had a great 2016 season! It is almost time to start it all over again, I will be doing the onions and leeks in a couple weeks.
For 2017, I think I will chronicle my solanaceous seed starting. See you in a couple months!
I decided to plant the onions today. I didn't see them growing any bigger 40 to a tub, and the weather was pretty good. I could have waited a few days, but I didn't want to wait until next weekend.
The rootball slid right out of the tub, and was a large mass. They wrapped around the bottom, nice strong, thick roots.
The first four pictures are Ailsa Craig, a large sweet Spanish-style long-day onion, the bottom one is Cabernet, a red intermediate to long day storage variety.
After sliding them out of the tub, they were gently teased apart while brushing the dirt away. A little bit of root was lost but it mostly stayed intact. For onions that are tangled together, a dip in a glass of water will get them to easily slide apart.
Most only had 2-3 healthy leaves on them. I suspect there just isn't enough nitrogen they were getting in the tubs, and the roots are too constrained. Next time I will go more heavy on the fertilizer. They are very hard to burn. My sister in law is actually an environmental science teacher, and as an experiment her students are giving them extreme doses of Miracle Gro, with no ill effects thus far. I can say though, I was very surprised, they WILL wilt at this stage if the mix dries out. But they had a nice bottom of stem going, and root system, so I hope they will be put out nice new leaves.
The soil for planting was worked with a spade, after adding a dose of compost and a little Espoma fertilizer. After planting some extra side dressing of Espoma was added. They are planting by making a hole with a spade or a finger, and putting the base of them stem just below the soil line -- they should not be planted deep or it will interfere with bulbing. I will add a very light layer of mulch once they get established.
They look so tiny.... I planted the Ailsa Craig's about 5" apart, and the Cabernet about 4" apart.
With my backup onions, if these do well with the transition, I will plant a scallion patch somewhere. Otherwise, I will be glad I had backups! I am going to give them a lot more nitrogen and see what happens.
The leeks are still very small and will need a couple more weeks.
1 week ago I sowed my sweet peppers, and last night I sowed my eggplants. They are in seed starting trays with Burpee seed starting mix. No germinators yet... the peppers should come up in the next few days. Next week I will start tomatoes and basil and that should just about wrap it up for the indoor starts this Spring! I am aiming for an early May 8th plant-out date for the peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes, and have plastic warming the soil and am prepared to provide cover.
As I wasn't thrilled with the Nature's Care Potting Mix this year, I went to a garden center and bought Espoma Potting Mix, and am looking forward to trying it.
My first sowing onions and leeks started getting some yellowing, especially at the tips. I trimmed them up and gave them some low-strength Miracle Grow, and they are sending up healthy 3rd leaves, while the 1st leaf is not looking good. Maybe overwatering, lack of nutrition, conditions indoors, I am not sure -- but I anticipate all these leaves will probably wither after transplanting anyway, it is the bulb area and the roots where it counts. I have started hardening off and was considering planting them today, but they really still aren't ready, I will wait another week. The leeks and second onion sowing are looking good but growing slow.
This is my first artichoke sowing, I will look to start hardening off and vernalizing next week, and my second sowing that are still cotyledons I think I am going to try putting in the refrigerator to vernalize -- yep, the whole plant! I will report back my results! Without sufficient cold exposure, artichokes will not produce buds in the early summer, though they might in the Fall. These are Imperial Star Artichokes which require little vernalization time. The second sowing done in seed starting mix came out all with "helmet heads" -- the seed coat was stuck to the sprout - and I will stick to starting these in potting mix in the future.
The weather has stayed exceptionally warm, and though the ground froze hard after my February 28th sowing, and did not really start warming for at least a week, the plastic on my raised bed kept the soil warm enough to not freeze, and one type of lettuce I planted germinated, as well as spinach, and mustard. I pulled the plastic off, as there were some days that are too hot. I did put it back on overnight for one night frost was forecast, as they are just sprouted and more tender than larger plants. They probably would have been ok, but I wanted to be safe. Still no sign of the carrots, which is not a surprise at all, they take a long time to germinate even in warm soil.
The lettuce I planted germinated so well (Adriana Butterhead), that my heavy handed sowing required heavy thinning.
These sprouts will require another round of thinning, but I didn't want to thin too thickly just yet.
I went ahead and planted the peas, temps below 22F are looking very unlikely, and the soil is warm enough to start them germinating.
The secret to getting a decent crop of peas is to sow them very thickly. They do not mind the heavy sowing, and some don't germinate. No thinning required! I also inoculate my peas with beneficial Rhizobium bacteria, which provides them free nitrogen. I get really nice nodules on my pea roots.
I bought a plastic composting tub 2 years ago, and the compost in it is finally ready. This thing did NOT work, too dry, isolated, not the way to do a compost pile. I pulled some larger things out of it that did not decompose and this will finally make a nice amendment and mulch for my garden! Meanwhile I have a new pile I started last year, directly on the ground, that will go out in the summer.
So I decided to make a little cheat sheet for seed starting, based on my experience the last 2 years. The dates listed are growing with a T5HO grow light, in warm room temperatures, with an average last frost date of April 20th (50%).
Onions and Leeks: Extremely slow growing, cold weather transplants
Artichokes: Slow growing and need cold treatment.
Brassicas: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts: Fast growing, Cool weather transplants
Sweet Peppers: Slow growing but need everything really warmed up outside.
Eggplants: Grow faster than peppers, also need it really warmed up outside.
Tomatoes: Fast growing and more cold tolerant than peppers or eggplants.
I am also going to try starting basil indoors this year, it had difficulty getting started outdoors and was loved by pests, and can benefit from the extended season especially due to basil downy mildew in the summer. Everything else is direct seeded in the garden.
One of the best seed starting calculators is available from Johnny's
The onions are doing well. The seed leaves have yellowed and then shriveled. They still look like they have quite a ways to go, but they weren't intended to be planted for another month. The leeks on the other hand (on the right, Megaton) are much less vigorous.
Only 2 out of the 7 artichokes I planted (02/14/2016) had germinated. They came up in about a week. They are really small compared to last year, I am not sure what to make of it. I do not think the cotyledons are going to grow any more. I almost immediately transplanted them to solo cups, as I learned last year that they have a large, rapidly growing taproot and need a lot of root space, and in addition they do not transplant well and sulk for a while after transplanting. I planted the rest of the seed I had as a backup and maybe to get more plants and they have not germinated yet.
Yesterday one of the four Numex Suave habaneros I planted (02/14/2016) finally peeked its head out. It took forever, not only for them to germinate, but once the stem started peeking it took many days for the cotyledon leaves to come up above the soil, even with supplemental heat (I had them on a radiator and later got out a heating pad.) Luckily, I only really want one of these guys, but sowed some backup ones just in case.
I am not really happy with the Nature's Care potting mix for seed starting, it did great last year but this year it seems more dense and rich and not good for germinated seeds, it is primarily peat and compost. I went out and bought some of Burpee's Seed Starting mix, which is primarily made with coconut coir, with perlite and very little nutrition. I am hoping for much better luck germinating in this lighter mix.
Below I have some cauliflower seedlings, they also had trouble pushing through the mix. In the front I have started Green Magic broccoli and Hestia brussels sprouts in the new mix. The Hestia sprouts are new this year, and supposedly heat tolerant and I am excited to try for some late Spring sprouts! I will also be starting Quickstart cabbage, but since this sulked last year in cold soil and did great in the summer, I will wait to start them.
Since the weather has been so mild, I also sowed a few Sun King broccoli seeds I bought a couple years ago and have not grown, just to see what happens.
Next week I will sow my sweet peppers. Even in this warm weather it is very bad to rush the heat loving plants. Better to be too late than too soon, or you could wind up with unhappy rootbound transplants. The habaneros and most hot peppers are super slow growing (or so I read, this is my first year growing them), so I am not as concerned.
Hard to believe it is still technically February, and I am out there planting in the garden! The soil froze last night, but tonight it was nice and workable and temps in the 60's.
I started with some spinach, one of the most cold-hardy crops. This was the spot I planted beans in last summer, so the soil should be nice and nitrogen rich for the green leafy spinach. This is an early variety from Johnny's, Space.
Just dumped it nice and liberally in a trench and buried it about 1/2-1" deep (a little extra cover for winter) and mounded it over. With the ground not forecast to freeze in the next few days I am not providing any protection at all.
Next I sneaked some mustard greens in at the end of a row. I just need a couple plants of this.
Then I planted carrots and lettuce in a raised bed. 2 types of carrots (Bolero and Purple Haze, left over seeds from last year), and Burpee bipp and Adriana butterhead.
Beautiful! Since the lettuce and carrots need more warmth both for germination and growth, I decided to cover these with 3.5mil plastic sheeting I am using elsewhere to warm the soil in preparation for the heat-loving eggplant and peppers. I will keep it on until hard freezes are no longer predicted, or temps get too hot, and then I will replace it with agribon/harvestguard if necessary. The hoops were set up with flexible PVC piping. Works great!
So it was 60 degrees today, in mid-February, which is bizarre, but I couldn't help getting out there in my garden for the first time this year. The weather people are predicting a warm Spring here this year and I am eager to really get started.
So this is my garden. It is about 800 square feet.
Those are 6' high metal stakes, with galvanized wire mesh (two layers of 3' mesh). I put that up the first year to keep out the deer. The deer can jump it (they can jump 8 feet or more), but they are both very hesitant to jump into an enclosed space, and they are also very lazy, especially with the abundance of food in the summer. Unfortunately, groundhogs got in last year by digging under the fence and decimated my brassicas, so I had to reinforce it. Chicken wire was added all along the bottom. A 3' roll was used, and about two feet of it is buried just under the ground, bent outwards all along the edge of the garden, and then 1' is spliced with the bottom of the fence. This helps keep groundhogs from digging in and keeps small animals out too. The top is nice and floppy the way it is with the fence posts at 6-8 feet apart on the inside of the garden, and prevents climbers. This type of hardcore fence is a must to have a garden here!!! I got the idea from here. The gate was built by hand with a gate kit and pressure treated lumber hand cut.
So I pulled up all the leftover dead Fall plants, cut the neglected asparagus ferns down, the artichokes (which I will be amazed if they survived even this mild winter -- there were a few brutal lows), pulled a few weeds out of the garlic, and put down plastic sheeting to warm the soil where I will be planting the heat-loving peppers and eggplants, in the sunniest spot I have.
My garlic is looking sad, but no worse than any other wintertime plants in my yard. I have about 70 cloves of Music hardneck garlic I planted in 3 different spots in the Fall, purchased from Big Red Barn. They have not sprouted new growth yet.
I planted artichokes and a super-low-spice habanero Numex Suave Orange (my wife can't eat spicy peppers due to her stomach) 6 days ago, nothing has germinated yet. They are both slow to germinate, and artichokes can be especially fickle. I have them on a shelf above a heater which provides some needed extra heat to get them to germinate.
The onions have sprouted their 2nd true leaf, and the seed leaves have begun yellowing at the tips, which I expect to completely wither away.
So it has been 2 weeks since sowing my first round of onions in tubs, and 1 week since sowing leeks and a second round of onions in seed starting trays. Seems like longer.
So here were the onions this morning:
They were about 5" tall, and following advice I have found on Gardenweb (http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/3627591/seed-starting-time), I decided to trim those straggely ends off today.
The trimmings smelled awesome, I will eat them when they get bigger. You can see through the tub the roots have already reached the bottom of the tub. The large tub seems to be working fine, next time I will just stick with that. It does stay moist for many days, but the onions don't seem to mind.
The Megaton Leeks (on the left) sprouted very fast, 4 days or so, and 8 days post sowing the second wave are all coming up like crazy:
The way this winter is going, I am hopeful to get these all in the ground nice and early, before the end of March. Looking forward to starting the artichokes, maybe next weekend.
The onions that were given a haircut basically stopped growing the seed leaf at that time, probably coincidental. They have started growing their first true leaves, but this seems to be going much slower. You can see them at the bottom of the seed leaf if you look closely.
The leeks and onions in the seed starting tray are growing at a similar pace to the tubs.
It has been 3 weeks since the tub onion sowing, and 2 weeks since the trays.
Some of the onions in the tub needed a haircut, but most did not. The seed leaf has definitely stopped growing, probably from when the first true leaves appeared.
The onions in the trays are actually not growing quite as vigorously as the tubs, believe it or not. I will definitely stick with the tubs next year. It is very dry in the house with the heat and I think they prefer the more even moisture the tubs can provide. Now I will have to transplant these seedlings into a clump and that won't be an easy task. I am waiting another week. The picture below of the seed starting tray has the same age seedlings as the first tub pictures above. The leeks (on the left) are also less vigorous than the onions, despite germinating sooner.
Last year I chronicled my garden on Gardenweb. A great place to get fast help and talk to fellow gardeners!
This thread has all most of my indoor seed starting chronicle: http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/2993293/tomatoes-and-eggplants-growing-fast?n=178
This thread is how I beat the Squash Vine Borer (SVB):
There are some more pictures in the harvest thread:
My eggplants also suffered from what looks like verticillium wilt... and recovered, for the most part:
About this site
My name is Peter and I am a gardener in the Lower Hudson Valley. This is my third year growing a very large garden, from seed. This is my journal.