Monday, 7 May 2012

finally seasonal weather

After the non-winter we have had and then a week of summer in March it's nice to be back to seasonal weather. Which means of course the temperature gyrates up and down and it's sunny and tropical feeling one day and cold and damp the next. But the plants are happier for it and we sowers of seed can relax a little.

For the first time I sowed spinach seeds in the late fall hoping to have an early spring crop. They germinated in the fall and then were very happy under the snow all winter. But then the tender emerging leaves were fried by the week of temperatures in the 20's in March. But with some rain and a warm, not scorching sun, the little plants have put on lots of healthy growth. The leaves are perhaps a little more muscular than their spring planted counterparts but it is a real thrill to be harvesting spinach in late April right out of the ground.
Fall seeded spinach

The new leaves of the ancient rhubarb we inherited were also scorched in April but, like the spinach, the new leaves are green and the stalks vigorous and healthy.

It's been about a month since the first sowing of peas and spinach and they are starting to put out their secondary leaves. The second planting a week later has also emerged but with just the primary leaves so far. And the first fava beans are breaking ground. Sometimes successive plantings don't work exactly as planned and later sowings emerge from the warmer soil sooner and catch up with their older siblings. But generally successive sowings seem the most successful, not because they ensure successive cropping, but because weather is unpredictable. Sometimes soil and air temperature and precipitation all conspire to make  perfect conditions and one sowing remains the most successful for the whole season. This happened with my beets last year - I did 3 different plantings but only one produced great results - even though it took three months for that to be obvious.

A couple years ago when our house in the city was being renovated I couldn't grow seedlings in the basement under grow lights as had been my habit. So circumstances required a few changes. I decided to try them in the unheated east facing porch at the farmhouse. It turned out to be a great success and is now my method of choice. In the city we have a vintage Moffatt gas stove whose pilot lights are on all the time. This gives just enough constant gentle heat to encourage seeds to germinate. The flats are enclosed in a plastic dry cleaning bag and it makes for perfect germinating conditions. The next step is to free them from their plastic cocoon and put them in our south facing bedroom window until the secondary leaves appear. At this point they make the trip to the porch at the farmhouse where the cool temperatures and morning sun seem perfect. It also guarantees that I don't hover like an anxious mother, watering too much or too often or just generally getting in their way.
The wasps seem to love hiding in the big leaves of the castor beans 

So the porch is now filled with tomatoes; little cherry, pear and currant heirlooms, full size heirlooms and a few hybrids. I usually start about 75 plants because it's hard to predict how many I'll lose to cutworms and which ones will do the best in the weather the summer brings. Cohabiting with the tomatoes are also 5 types of peppers, ornamental Japanese corn for the pots, castor beans, lavender and basil.
Seedlings  in the porch
Because the lettuces I plant are open pollinated and I allow at least some of them to bloom and set seed in the late summer I always have a few self seeded volunteers. These seem to germinate where circumstances conspire to provide perfect conditions and then I prick them out and plant into nice orderly rows in the salad greens bed. They are always so robust and healthy - enough to make one cautiously optimistic.
Transplanted self seeded lettuces with a mulch of grass clippings

We find the season is about three weeks behind up in the hinterland so the crabapple allee there is about to burst into bloom just as the crabapple in the city has lost most of its blossoms.
Crabapple in full bloom a couple weeks ago in the city with redbud in the back ground

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful!!! Let the good eating begin. I love the pics, especially the one of all the seedlings. What an exciting time of year.