I think I jinxed it this winter when I talked about how we haven’t had a classic windy spring for a while. We were due and we got it! As if spring isn’t hard enough with everything wanting to be done all at once!
OK so here are some topics that feel relevant now:
Our dry winds are so tough on transplants. If it’s blowing all the time you can’t leave your starts out to “harden-them-off” because by nature they’re so tender. They’ll wilt and wither almost immediately. But when you do finally plant them the wind can whip them around so hard it kills them.
You need to be even more attentive with the water than usual to keep them happy. The same is true about germinating seedlings, you must keep the seedbed moist to ensure good germination, and these winds dry it out almost immediately!
Remay (agribon) is handy in these conditions since it moderates the seedbed environment so nicely. However you must be diligent about weighing it down WELL so the wind doesn’t get underneath and tug it loose. I weigh it down in the corners with rocks and the sides with boards. You need to pull it tight side-to-side and end-to-end, straight and proud like a soldier’s made bed. As mentioned before you can water right through it. You should check underneath though every few days so you know what’s happening. Your seedlings should be emerging nicely but the bindweed could be flourishing as well.
My brassicas have been completely consumed by something biggish. There’s a guilty-looking robin who’s been lingering there. I think she knows I know.
I’ve been hearing the same from others—the brassica’s (cabbage, broccoli, arugula, radishes family) are being decimated. I’m guessing it’s partly because they are often the first plants to be out in the garden and there is not much else to eat. Plus they’re SO GOOD for you and of coarse all the critters just know this. My arugula also is being eaten but by little flea beatles. They put tiny holes in the leaves. Actually it’s the arugula I intentionally planted that is having issues. The volunteer arugula both in the hoophouse and outside (under remay) of course is fine. Elena and I were just discussing this—that volunteer arugula is usually superior (whereas, interestingly, volunteer lettuce is not.)
I’m now collecting cans to help protect the plants from both wind and pests. I’ll cut the bottoms out and place them around my starts next time.
Are you having pest problems?
SHORT PLANTING WINDOW
OK so we’re in the third week of May and where are you with your garden?
Are you the plant-it-all-at-once type or the plant-it-in-succession type?
Tessa and I today, while weathering the wind and bemoaning our brassica woes were discussing the merits of the former.
Whichever you are you need to know that some longer-season crops need to go in as soon as it is safe to be assured enough time for maturity. Each season is different, as is each location. There’s such a difference in micro-climes here and elevation too. That’s one reason the indigenous peoples settled here in Boulder, it’s a short distance between the different growing/harvesting zones (from lower desert to the Aquarius).
Tony at the Hell’s Backbone Farm said it feels earlier and warmer to him and his plants are jumping. But here on Boulder Creek it still feels cold. The rhubarb is now up but it’s looking tentative and is still not ready to eat. The asparagus is, however. YUM!
There’s usually but not always a late frost at the end of May/beginning of June here in Boulder. A lot of folks won’t put their tomatoes in until a week into June, if the forecast looks good, just to be sure. Last year was warm early and stayed fairly warm. Jackie Austin and Heather went for it early with tomatoes and had us all beat by weeks!
Potato expert Barbra Gardner says about anytime in May is good for planting potatoes but you absolutely should have them in by the first week of June. I’ve done that and it worked out fine. I know HBG got theirs in quite early with no issues but sometimes if the leaves are up frost can kill the plant.
Other roots crops, especially storage onions take a full season. I usually start those from seed in Feb/March and plant them in April.
Winter squash needs a long season but so easily freezes, so I seed my Blue Hubbards (for squash rolls!) usually around June 7-10th when it feels safe.
So get all your garden spaces ready to go so that you can plant when the time is right!
Interestingly, at least here on the creek (the coldest spot ” in town”) there’s very little time between the “early-crop” and “late-crop” planting dates for certain crops that even have two like lettuces and kale, but particularly carrots and beets. If I don’t get my fall beets and carrots in by the second week of June I won’t get any.
Another good thing to understand, especially if you have lean soil, is that you want your plants to get to their full size in a sprightly manner, so that they have time to actually produce for a decent amount of time. I’m talking here especially about the warm-weather fruit crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons, etc.
This has everything to do with soil fertility. So even if you have done your best to amend your soil with manure, compost, and/or other organic materials you may also want to consider using good fertilizers like sea kelp and fish emulsion. It’s nitrogen in particular though that produces leaf-growth, and that collects the sun’s energy to grow the plant’s architecture. Just FYI…
THINKING AHEAD ABOUT SEED-SAVING!
This year feels like a very good one for saving seeds! If you have never done it you should try. Peas, beans, and lettuces are especially easy.
With peas and beans, if you only have one variety or your rows are separated by a row of a different crop, you shouldn’t have any crossing and you can save that seed. Ideally you section off some of your crops with flagging tape and don’t harvest from there. Just let the pods mature until dry then collect those and Voila! you have seed for next year.
With lettuce you can harvest as usual, just mark your healthiest-looking plants and leave those in place after you pull the others. Let them grow out their seedheads and harvest when plump and dry.
Most crops are easy to collect seed from, you just need to know a few tidbits and take a few more steps. Some crops need some distance from different varieties and you may need to adjust your garden plan and perhaps even coordinate with your neighbor.
To first-time seed-savers I like to recommend Marc Rogers’ book “Saving Seeds.” It’s got all the info you need (but not too much) to proceed with confidence.
Suzanne Ashworth’s book “Seed to Seed” is the absolute classic and the one you want if you really get into it. I could see it being a bit much though if you’re just getting started.
If you’d like more info or would like to borrow a book ask me or another Boulder Skills Foundation person and we’ll talk it up!
Red House Farm & Boulder Skills Founation Founder