Thursday, February 27, 2014

Far too productive: a gardening post in winter

Well, I have a few days off here, and naturally, instead of relaxing, we decided to ... get a head start on the gardening. Because, you know, the ground will thaw. Someday.

(I mean, it has to stop being winter at some point. I'm almost 98 percent sure.)

You wouldn't know spring is coming. Usually, we grill all winter and cook on the fire, and nothing stops us from laughing in the face of snow. Unless, perhaps, it's negative temps and wind and all this other nonsense. This year, we dragged the grill to the garage in a huge storm, after the wind stole our grill cover and sent it sailing to Chicago, and the fire pit is covered in snow and ice, never to be unearthed in this tundra.

But today was a step in the right direction.

We've read and checked and we think we have a plan for the garden. It involves large planting boxes, yet to be built, and seasonal planting and a whole host of things yet to be discovered. Not to mention more weeding – another skill we lack entirely are working on.

So, if you'd like to experiment with us, and perhaps have a bit of cabin fever, feel free to join in. We bought most of the supplies at Farm & Fleet, and our seeds at the local Corn Crib store, which looked closed, but was, in fact, open for crazy people like us. We took our cues on what to plant from Better Homes & Gardens, Modern Farmer and our general experience hereabouts. For instance, we planted beets, but not tomatoes, as we have better luck with actual tomato plants.

(Although, I'm really thinking about getting seeds for a specific kind of sauce tomato. It's like a Roma tomato on steroids. If you are a canning geek, you know what I mean. Totally awesome, right?)

Currently, we have: Kale, peas, cucumbers, beets, leeks, spinach, Brussels sprouts and chile peppers. Oh, and some basil. I'm determined to get it to grow!

Here's what we used:

Two paper trays, about 2 in. by 8 in. by 20 in.
Two plastic trays, about the same size
1 8 qt. bag spaghum peat moss
1 8 qt. bag potting soil
1 large bucket
1 scoop or old wooden spoon
Small watering can or pitcher
stick-on labels

What I did:

I put the paper trays into the plastic trays, for drainage, and set them up on our windowsill area. Then I poured half the peat moss and half the potting soil into the bucket, and mixed it up.

I poured half the mixture into each tray and patted it out flat. Don't pack it in, but do make it level.

Now check your seeds. Most of mine said to plant about 1/2 in. deep. So, take a look at your pencil. The top metal part should be about 1/2 in. If not, measure 1/2 in. from the end and mark with a pen.

Take the pencil and make small holes 1/2 in. deep in rows down and across for the seeds.

The paper trays I bought have indents to indicate rows. If yours don't, that's okay. Mark the rows with a pen on the tray, and try to keep the holes about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 in. apart.

Now, put a few seeds into each hole. I had enough room for 12 rows across and six rows deep, so I used four different types of seeds in each tray.

I'd recommend dedicating either one whole short row or one long row to one type of plant. It's easier to label, that way.

After dropping the seeds in, lightly pinch the top of the hole and cover gently with soil. Repeat with one type of seed, and then label. I used sticky labels and put them on clothespins that I attached to the side of the tray.

Once your tray is planted, take your small pitcher or watering can, and water each row lightly. Then place the tray in a sunny, warm spot.

You can also get plastic covers for some of these trays. We've had problems with mold in the past, so we're not doing that this year. We'll see how it goes!

Our plan is to water every 2-3 days, depending on how dry the soil gets. You definitely don't want it soaked (see mold, above). Hopefully, in three to four weeks, we'll see some kind of progress!

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