Monday, February 21, 2011

Behind Already?

How is it possible that, in the third week of February, I already feel behind on my gardening jobs? Well, not really – I had wanted to sow some tomato and cabbage seeds earlier this week, and I had wanted to finish up a sowing schedule from now to mid-summer, but I have been busy working on the book and a huge “To Do” list of other things, and so I just haven’t gotten to it. Today is the day! Thank goodness for three-day weekends! After lunch I will sow a pack each of Carmello, Juliet, and Gardener’s Delight tomatoes, some Savoy Express cabbage, Blushed Butter Oak and Little Gem lettuce, and Pistou basil. Only a pack each at this point – we want a variety of tomato plants, so we will only need one of each, along with others we pick up at the garden center to get a wide range. But I’ll plant a couple of extra, choosing the healthiest to plant out and giving the others away. The cabbage, lettuce and basil I will plant again in a month or so, to ensure a succession.

I’ve already set up my new grow light frame, so the packs can go in there to sprout. I’ve never used on of these before, but I figure it has to beat the erratic light on our windowsills here. The setup is very basic – essentially a metal frame from which hangs a grow light set into a reflective ballast that is adjustable up and down to allow for plant growth. We’ll see how it goes! I think this is the easy part. The problem comes when I have to harden these seedlings off before planting in the allotment. When we lived in the ‘burbs I had a little plastic greenhouse which was perfect for this, but I can’t see me putting it up on the fire escape! I’ll rig some kind of makeshift cold frame up; once again Alys Fowler may come to the rescue! Her latest article in the Guardian talks about pulling together scavenged cold frames. I’ll tackle that problem when I come to it (procrastination as survival mechanisim...).

And as soon as I get this blog post up, I’ll move on to finish the seed-starting schedule, which I will post later. I’m essentially going to count weeks backwards and forwards from the approximate frost date for Brooklyn, and then list what will be started each week. I haven’t found any real consensus on when our average last frost is here – I have read as early as April 10! I don’t believe it for an instant! So I am guess-stimating a date of April 20. Better to late than to early! I have included a few useful links below that contains practical how-to tips on when to start seeds and how to come up with your own schedule. Take a look and see which one looks the most practical for you!

From Mother Earth News (there is a link here as well to frost dates, in case you don’t know yours…)

From Gardener’s Supply Company blog written by the wonderful Kathy Liberté:

and a longer article on seed-starting advice, including a sample schedule from one of my gardening goddesses, Barbara Damrosch over at the Kitchen Garden Seeds site:

While you are there, you might want to check out some of the new interactive options for designing vegetable plots – I think they are cool, though I have to say I didn’t stick to the one I generated last year. But so much good information is available by playing around with these tools, like spacing and crop-rotation.

Let me know what you think about any of these sites, or any of your favorites that are useful during this planning stage of the garden!

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