Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring is Here, Let's Get Planting

After the big snows last week, we finally have gotten a break. Yesterday we hit 60s with some decent rain and it really smelled like spring. The vast majority of the snow is gone and with all the rain and upcoming warm weather, I'm sure the trees will start budding out soon.
I have been diligent in seed starting with lots of lettuce and spinach planted in early February. Fortunately, first of March meant the bulk of the seed starting. I have all the tried and true varieties and a whole bunch of new things to try. I have started far more tomato types than we even have space for, oh well. If they take, I will be a good person to know come the first part of May. Everything this year is being first sprouted in a damp paper towel in the furnace room and transplanted into soil blocks in the garage. The majority of my seeds come from Baker Creek seeds in Mansfield, MO. They are close to us and their seeds do very well in Kansas City. The other seed houses I have are Jung and Pinetree seeds. I really, really like the Jung little leaf cucumber and Pinetree's spinach has germination rates much higher than anything else I have tried.
 This is the improved seed starting setup. I bought the taller covers so I can keep the humidity up much longer than the old short versions, as the plants get bigger. Previously when the seeds outgrew the short covers, they got cold, dried out, and really didn't do well. The tall covers are the way to go. Last year I cut an old blanket to hang around them to keep the temperature up. It gets held up with Velcro on the underside of the cabinets. This year I glued aluminum foil to the inside for improved reflectivity. Maybe it is the placebo effect, but the plants really took off after the foil installation. A couple of these have seed heating mats underneath. I moved offices recently from one with southern exposure to one with eastern exposure. To compensate I bought a 2ft 4 tube t5 grow light. It just got installed and is really bright. I moved all of the citrus, bonsais, and random vegetables to my office. If they take off I can see getting a 4ft T5 setup for the garage next year. Yeah, I'm the weirdo with a grow light in my office.
Saturday I spent a good portion of the morning working in the garden. The worms were up at the top and the robins weren't far behind. The far hoop house has some left over lettuce and kale from last fall. It will shortly be planted with peas. I had a research project with the lightweight aggregate association send some wrong material recently. I can't use that material for research so I am amending all the beds with expanded shale aggregate. It holds moisture well and keeps the soil loose. Sometimes it is handy to work with the aggregate companies on research.
This bed will the the lettuce bed for the year, or at least until it gets hot. I planted month old starts of spinach (space F1), leaf lettuce (rocky top), and head lettuce (parris island cos romaine) this weekend. There are more started in the garage for staggered planting in a month. The black milk jugs are filled with water to help store some heat. Afterward it was buttoned up with six mil poly and spring clamps. I have to say the cheap PVC hoop houses with plastic and clamps really do a nice job. They don't cost anything to build and the plastic lasts a couple years. I just stick the PVC into the ground so it is easily moved.
For dinner tonight we had 50 clove mushrooms and pork tenderloin in the slow cooker with kale from the garden. The young, early growth kale was wonderful. It was probably the best kale I have ever eaten and would be on the menu 3 times a week if it stayed that good. Next fall/winter I will probably plant an entire kale bed just for a couple meals through the winter.