It wasn’t that cold this morning, the sun was bright and the birds were singing up a storm. It was a great time to have breakfast outside for a change. After surveying the garden to see what damage the deer had done last night, I picked our first salad of the season ( in the cold frame). The Arugula and red-leaf lettuce that I sowed last autumn are at their peak. I also thinned the seedlings I sowed a few weeks ago: Pac Choi, Mizuna and Radish and used them all in the salad as well. Nothing wasted.
And, here is this morning’s breakfast (adapted from Le Pain Quotidien Bakery breakfast choice)
Arugula, Red-leaf lettuce, seedlings of Pac Choi, Radish, Mizuna
Organic Irish smoked salmon (very mild, less salty)
I usually start seedlings of any plants that need longer time to mature in the house not long before I can plant them outside: Chili pepper, tomato, Bitter melon, Moonflower and a few more. I put them right in their permanent spots in the garden when they have developed their true leaves (the second set of leaves). When it gets too chilly I just cover them with plastic cups or soup containers. It’s been my normal practice until this year.
The cold weather has lasted longer this year so I had to adapt my method of planting otherwise the plants will not have enough time to produce anything but leaves. I started chili peppers, tomatoes and Anise in mid-March. The 48 cell seed starter tray is a perfect tray to use for this job. I put 3-4 seeds in each cell and put the tray on a heat mat that I set to 80º F. Most of the tomato plants sprouted in about 4 days, followed by some of the chili peppers.
Then came the part I always skip, putting them in their individual pot when they develop true leaves. I know if I put them in the ground at this time, even with plastic cups over them, they will die. So, I separated the tomato seedlings and put them in their individual pots in the house. When it gets a little warmer outside I will put them in the cold frame to harden them before I put them in their permanent spots or give them to friends and colleagues.
As for large size tomatoes, I grow the usual ones: Mortgage Lifter, Rose and my favorite-Cherokee purple. The ‘Ribbed’ one, I have no idea what it is but I love the taste so I kept the seeds to grow this year. I’m still waiting for some self seeded cherry and grapes tomatoes to sprout in the garden. They are late this year due to weather.
After a long wait for fresh backyard salad, I can hardly stop myself from sowing seeds in the vegetable garden. As soon as the soil softens, judged by seeing weeds coming up, I put Arugula, Radish (Cherry Belle and French Breakfast), Pak choi, Mizuna, Kale, Swiss chard, Scallion, Lettuce, and Broccoli Raab in. The arugula is always the first to come up.
I also put Snap Peas in the soil directly. I find that they grow stronger that way than starting them in a container and replanting them. I just soak the seeds in water for a few hours, placing them between damp paper towels. The roots will sprout out in two nights. I drop the ones with roots in the soil and cover them. I don’t have to worry about hardening them. If they feel it’s the right time to poke shoots above ground, they will. They are already a couple of inches tall now. I will have stir-fry sized pea shoots in a couple of weeks.
Some self-sown Broccoli Raab, Borage and Calendula also came up. Last year’s Red Russian kale, Scallion and Radicchio looks pretty fresh and healthy. I can pick them while waiting to thin the seedlings (great baby greens for salad). I also picked my first Asparagus of the season last weekend and will have some more this weekend. Garlic is looking lovely at this time too. I have already fed them once.
Yes, the tomatoes have sown themselves again. They are just an inch above the soil surface right now, not big enough to be transplanted yet. I will take most of the Borage and Calendula out from the vegetable garden and transplant them along with the flowers.
Anywhere I turn there are signs of new shoots and leaves unfurling, another cycle of life has begun.
I promised myself to be tougher with self-sown seedlings this year. Last year we returned from vacation to discover plenty of tomato seedlings in the vegetable garden. They were very healthy too, so I dug some up and either gave them to colleagues or replanted them in my neighbor’s garden. I let some of them grow and that posted a big problem. They took over the garden. I have a solid plan this year: only the seedlings I started in the house will have their space in the garden.
I settled with twelve seedlings for each tomato: Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Purple, White Tomesol, Rose, Aunt Gertie’s Gold and grape tomatoes. They came up four days after I put them in the coconut planting medium. I waited for the tomatoes to produce true leaves, the second set of leaves, before I put them in individual pots. I know there will be seedlings from our compost corner and I use them so I didn’t start any cherry tomatoes.
The chili peppers have taken a little bit longer to germinate. I’m growing a few more varieties this year: Bhut Jolokia, Congo Trinidad, Chocolate Habanero, Caribbean Red, Sikkim chili, Lemon Drop, Purira, Punjab, Nepalese Bell (a colleague gave me fresh seeds), Karen (Golden Triangle tribe)chili, Bird Dropping (smallest Thai chili), medium Thai chili, and Long Thai chili. They are very slow to grow since I didn’t use a heating pad this year and the only light they get is through the living room bay window.
If I’m home on the day the temperature has gone up above 60°F, I would take them outside to get real sunlight and harden them up a bit. I hope to be able to put them in the garden in the middle of the month.