Coronavirus and gardening

Well it seems that the Coronavirus is making gardeners out of a lot of people who have never tried vegetable gardening before. Many people are interested in trying to grow food now. That makes me happy. I know it feeds my soul as well as my belly. There is a good article, ‘An onslaught of orders engulfs seed companies amid coronavirus fears’ about how the seed companies are super busy filling orders for seeds right now.  Glad some companies are doing well in all this chaos.

Being out in the fresh air (by yourself) and in a garden grounds me (no pun intended) and god knows we all need that right now-at least I do. I can’t stay inside all day and be on TV or the internet and watch or listen to all the doom and gloom news. I need to hear good news too. Growing vegetables brings me joy and makes me feel productive-in a way I’m creating my own good news and food.

Here in our area and in lots of area throughout the country, a lot of veggies can be started from seed in April, like carrots, beets, onions, greens like kale and chard. Some lettuces and spinach can be started from starts and transplanted into your garden. Warm weather crops like tomatoes, corn, winter squash, and summer squash all need to be started AFTER danger of frost which is after May 15 here in Santa Fe.

I want to encourage any of you interested in growing your own food to start now. You will feel more productive and less depressed about the worldwide Coronairus scenario.

This site has a lot of free information and tips about how to grow, what to grow,  and when to grow veggies throughout the year. Please feel free to explore the site and on the right side column, there is wealth of topics to explore.

That’s it for now. Take care of yourselves and be safe!

Kalibos cabbage-unbelievably beautiful!

For the last 2 years I’ve grown Kalibos cabbage. A friend of mine, Alessandra turned me on to it. This beautiful Eastern European variety is cone shape with huge outer leaves that surround the cone. The cabbage has a high sugar content and intense reddish-purple leaves. The flavor is sweet. Finally a cabbage I like! I never liked cabbage before. It is so beautiful in the garden and makes quite a statement.

I especially like planting it with flowers like in the picture above. It will be equally beautiful nestled in with other plants or in the veggie garden. Needs full sun and takes 2-3 square feet in the garden. Start seeds indoors and transplant them outside under some lightweight row cover. Harvest in late summer or fall. I got my seeds from rareseeds.com (Baker Heirloom Seeds). 90 days to harvest.

What can gardeners do while we deal with Coronavirus?

So while most of us are holed up in our houses, I imagine we will get pretty bored. There are only so many Netflix videos I can watch. I’m a bit shell shocked and finding trouble getting motivated right now to do anything. But I must. I can’t sit around here moping around when actually there are many things I could do around the house and garden.

Since I need to do something else and I am a gardener, I can start getting my garden up to speed. There are always things I never seem to have enough time to do during the garden season as planting always takes precedent. Well, now I have the time to do some of those garden chores I always seem to put off. Plus I can share more on my blog with all this time off.

So what am I going to do? First, I have a lot of cool season veggies started in my house under grow lights. Lettuce, spinach, chard, beets, fava beans, onions and peas are growing inside and just waiting to go outside. But not in the next few days as we are cold in the day and freezing at night. So they will stay tucked in the house for a few more days before I transplant them outside in my main garden. When I do put them outside, I will put row cover over them at night. If you don’t have winter weight row, then two layers of medium weight will work to protect them. Don’t forget to water.

Meanwhile there are many other gardening chores I can do. Here is my list so far:

-The raspberries need to be pruned now before new growth comes in

-The greenhouse needs a fresh coat of paint

-I need to start new compost piles and turn old ones

-feed my worms in my vermicompost pile. Screen some of the castings out to put in the holes when I do plant

-The greenhouse needs to be straightened up and reorganized.

-Collect stuff I need to take to the dump. Are they even open right now?

-Weeds-pull any that are coming up right now or take your hoe and scrape the ground, cutting them off before they get big

-Rake and smooth out my raised beds

-Add 2 inches of compost on each bed and sprinkle a little Azomite on each bed to remineralize them

-Lightly rake in the compost and azomite in the beds

-Start tomato seeds at end of March

-Order garden stuff from Amazon

-Watch gardening clips on Youtube

-Cook my raw tomato sauce that is in my freezer from last season and make some good pasta sauces.

-If you haven’t started any plants, you can plant any cool weather SEEDS OUTSIDE like spinach and beets.

-Plant lettuce, carrots, more beets and chard in April

-I’m sure there are lots more things to do but it is exhausting just thinking about them-think I’ll go take a nap!

 

 

 

 

 

Growing onions

I use to think growing onions was a waste of time but I’ve changed my mind. A home grown onion is better than a store bought one that is really old. There are a couple of ways to grow onions. Go to your nursery and get ‘sets’ which are little onion bulbs and just plant them according to instructions. But what if they don’t have a particular variety you want to grow this season? Then you need to start them from seeds.

What type of onions should we grow here in Santa Fe? There are three types of onions, each one does better in certain parts of the country. Both short day and day neutral onions (sometimes called intermediate onions) will work here in Santa Fe (and of those two, day neutral do best but you can grow short day as well). Long day will NOT have enough daylight hours to work here and the onions will be puny. So when shopping for onions, be sure to ask if these are short day or day neutral types and if you are shopping online, read the description-it should say what type it is. Short day need 10-12 hours of daylight and day neutral need 12-14 hours of daylight. All can be planted in fall or early spring but not in the middle of summer.

GROWING FROM SEEDS: Next if starting from seed, you should start now or even earlier (next year-but you can start now too). In the top pictures are some Cippolini Italian onions that I could not find in sets so I started them last month from seeds. Now I am not quite ready to plant them out, and their tops were getting tall so I read it’s perfectly fine to trim off the little skinny tops. They will continue to grow. I used the cuttings on my scrambled eggs in the morning. Later this month I will separate each one and plant them out in the garden. Those spindly little green tops will grow out to be beautiful onions. I had a bumper crop of onions this last season.

If you think growing onions from seeds instead of sets might turn out smallish, then look again. These red onions from Italy turned out fantastic and I harvested them last fall and they are still good.

GROWING FROM SETS: Now if you prefer to buy sets instead, plant each bulb 1 inch deep with the round part of the bulb facing down in a well composted bed, 4 inches apart in full sun. Water moderately. For spring planting, plant bulb sets now.

HARVESTING ONIONS: When the necks become soft and the tops fall down, stop watering and when 50% of the green tops die back, the full size onions will be ready to harvest. If the bulb is poking out of the soil, that’s ok. Harvest before it freezes. Do not clean off the dirt or cut off the tops until you cure the onions. Curing is the process of letting the outer skins harden off and is necessary for them to store unless you are using them right away. Let dry in a protected area like under a porch or in a shady area for about a week and then clean off the dirt and trim off the tops. Store inside in a dark area like where you store potatoes.

Grow flowers in your veggie garden!

Last year I had an edible flower class out here on the mini-farm. The garden looked so beautiful. I normally grow flowers to attract pollinators and beneficial bugs but had the bonus of edible flowers as well. I liked mixing them within some of the crops. Nice to remember how beautiful it was considering the garden is sleeping now. Here are some photos from it.

Growing cool season lettuce

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Cool season lettuces and spinach in germination tray, ready to transplant into bigger pots

A friend of mine said the other night that she stopped trying to grow lettuce because it always gets too bitter. But growing lettuces in the spring can be easy-you just have to start earlier than you think you do. If you start seeds in late April, you’re too late as the weather can go from cold days to hot days very quickly and that is when they can bolt and become bitter so you’ll want to harvest earlier.

Since most lettuces are cool season crops and take around 45-55 days to mature, we need to back up our start date to sometime in February/March or even earlier inside under lights (like I did) and harvest in April or early May before it gets hot.

Be sure to grow lettuces that are cold tolerant-it should say on the seed packets. This year I started the first lettuces back on January 15 inside my house under grow lights with no heat-this is very early so I’m pushing it.

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Lettuce transplanted un into bigger pots or pony paks.

Then I transplanted them up from the germination tray into a pony pak on January 20. Then I  transplanted the plants into my greenhouse on February 17. That’s about 4 weeks old when I put them out in the ground.  My greenhouse is unheated so I have to cover them everynight and on cold days with 2 layers of row cover but so far they are doing well. Tonite is 13°F so let’s see if they survive…

Meanwhile I started more from seeds on Feb 03 and they were transplanted into the pony paks February 25 so if tonite kills the others in the greenhouse, these should go out into the greenhouse in another 1-2 weeks. Basically the whole process from starting lettuce seeds to putting out into a greenhouse or coldframe or as the season goes on takes about 4-5 weeks.

You can even put them in a raised bed or mini hoophouse with heavy row cover directly over them by the time April rolls around. So if you plant them in first week of March, you will be able to pick leaves 45 days later or around April 15. By the time everyone else is just starting their lettuce seeds, you will be enjoying the lettuces while they are sweet before it gets too hot.