Starting tonight, the next 4 nights will be below freezing with the temperatures dipping down to 30°F tonight and 27-28°F for the following three nights so if you have anything outside or in an unheated greenhouse or hoop house or cold frame, you’ll need to put row cover over your plants to keep them from freezing at night.
The tomato seeds are starting to germinate in their trays. It has taken only 5 days! Still more to germinate but many are already up. A few haven’t germinated so I will replant if they don’t come up in a few days. They are under fluorescent ‘daylight’ T-8 lamps that are in a standard 48″ fluorescent light fixture that I got from Home Depot. They are also on heat mats and I have a heat mat thermostat set to 80 degrees. The heat mats and thermostat I got at Amazon. I never use to use a thermostat but one year without it, the temperature went to 100 degrees and the seeds fried. With a thermostat, it controls the temperature perfectly to whatever is the optimum temperature for each crop. In this case, the optimum range for tomato seeds for germination is between 70-85 degrees.
Every year it seems, I adjust my tomato seed planting schedule. This year is the latest I’ve ever started my tomato seeds-April 5th. Still trying to tweak it out about when the best time is to start them. If I plant seeds too early, the plants will get too tall before I transplant them outside in wall of waters. Last year I started seeds March 29th. So we will see how they do.
A couple of things have allowed me be able to start them later and get them in the garden earlier.
First, since I changed to Batch 64-Moonshine soil mix (from Agua Fria Nursery), the plants take off growing like a rocket as soon as they germinate. The list of ingredients in it is unbelievable. Once the seeds germinate, there is enough nutrients in this soil mix to basically fertilize your seedling for 6 weeks without adding anything else (except maybe liquid seaweed and Vitamin B at transplanting time to reduce transplant shock). Now I can plant them outside in 5 weeks instead of the 7-8 weeks in years past.
Secondly, I now start my seeds in these germination trays (see pic) where the cells are close together. The trays being shallower, seem to speed the germination process too—less soil to heat. These are a 20 row seedling flat.
Thirdly, it seems to be getting warmer sooner in the spring here in Santa Fe or at least that is my experience. Using wall of waters to protect the young tomato plants from cold nights, I was able to transplant my tomato plants outside on May 3rd, shaving 13 days off the ‘frost free’ date of May 15 that we have here in Zone 6b. They did just fine in their wall of waters. But last year we were in a warm drought and this year may be different with all the precipitation we got this winter. We’ll see.
And lastly, maybe, just maybe, I’ve become a better gardener through the years…
April is a great time to plant greens like spinach, lettuce, cabbage and mustard greens. Plant now so you will get some greens to eat before it gets too hot. When it is hot they will bolt and become bitter. They can be grown in part shade to last longer when the heat comes. The spinach was actually started last spring and made it through the winter and the chartreuse and purple bok choi were put out 3 weeks ago. All are covered at night with row cover.
Other good crops to plant in April are bok choi and chard. They are real workhorses in the garden being able to withstand our cold and hot seasons. They can be grown in part shade to full sun.
Also good crops to plant in April are beets and carrots. Be sure to plant these in areas of your garden that are getting full sun and water 2 times a day until they are up.
Of course all this is dependent on your soil being warm enough now. How warm should your soil be? Between 40-60 degrees. How do you know how to tell? Get a soil thermometer and stick it in your soil about 2 inches deep. Here is a soil temperature chart to help you know when to plant veggies.
And these plants should still be covered with row cover at night because of our cold temperatures.
Santa Fe Seed Library Kickoff-Saturday, March 23
If you are a gardener in Santa Fe, you should be excited about this. Santa Fe is starting a Seed Library in the Santa Fe Southside Library branch off Jaguar. All free this Saturday.
The Santa Fe Seed Library will provide open-pollinated seed to the Santa Fe Community and will encourage the development of a community of seed savers and seed stewards. The Santa Fe Seed Library is a collaboration between the Santa Fe Public Library and the Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners. In addition to providing access to open-pollinated seeds, the Seed Library will offer a number of free public programs to help facilitate the growth of a community of climate-savvy gardeners.
This Saturday is the kickoff of it with guest speakers, info tables, a Seed Swap and the movie ‘Seed: The Untold Story‘ and of course seeds! I will be there representing Home Grown New Mexico with an info table on our classes this year and will be putting on a mini-seed swap. It will be open from 1 to 4pm at Santa Fe Southside Library, 6599 Jaguar Dr, Santa Fe, NM, Hope to see you there!
As far as perennial fruit goes, I already cut back the new raspberry plants a few days ago. They are a fall variety called Polana from Norse nursery online. They were fantastic last year with us harvesting lots of raspberries in their first year. So this is their first trimming. I trimmed them back within an inch or two of the ground and they are all still alive. I wasn’t sure as I forgot to water them last fall for a few months but with all the precipitation we got this winter, they are fine.
I also cut back the new blackberry plants called Triple Crown, and saw lots of new start-ups that rooted that I will move. Now I won’t have to buy some to finish up the blackberry row. Hopefully I will get blackberries in their second year.
Today I pulled away all the dead leaves around the rhubarb (Victoria) and they are starting to come up too. A very hardy perennial plant.
I checked the strawberries and pulled all the dead borage plants that grow up in the strawberry patch each year from dropped seeds. Borage is a good companion plant for strawberries and the bees love them. The strawberries need a haircut too-but not too short. The strawberries did fantastic last year.
The verdict is out on the artichoke. It came back last year in its second year but I don’t see any signs of life yet this year. They actually are not supposed to be grown here as a perennial because we are in a colder zone than they like, so we will see if it makes it or not.
Next up is to prune back the grapes and the apple trees and other fruit trees. I’m late on the apple trees but they need to be desperately thinned and pruned now before they come back to life. Last year I put Azomite, a mineral supplement, in my veggie garden which really helped the crops and I have some leftover which I will sprinkle around the fruit trees this year.
Time to Plant Peas!
I use a legume inoculate powder on the seeds. They pull nitrogen from the air and deposit it on little nodules on their roots.
Here’s some pea planting basics:
-Sun: They produces more in full sun in cool climate gardens. For warmer climates they prefer afternoon shade.
-Soil temp for pea planting: 40-75 °F– warmer soil will lead to faster germination
-Seed planting depth: 1″
-Space between pea seeds: I plant a double row of peas about spaced 2 inches apart in each row and each row is about 6 inches apart. I put them next to a trellis to grow up.
-Seed treatment: use a legume Inoculate for pea seeds.
-Days to germination: Approximately 12-14 days from planting seeds outside depending on soil temperature. They colder the soil, the longer they take to germinate.
So get out and plant peas soon!