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
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.