Tomatoes are in-May 3rd-woo hoo!

Today we put 31 tomatoes in the garden. Enjoy the time lapse!

This is the earliest I have ever been able to put them outside. We always put them in Wall-of-Waters (green cylinders) to protect them from the chilly nites or if we have a late freeze.  Now I’m dirt tired-time for a cocktail!

Plants suffer in 21°F weather/changes for the better by Friday April 17

Well, almost all my tulips bite the dust with the cold weather but these pictured above lifted up their heads and survived. At least I got about two weeks of glorious color to brighten my days before this latest cold snap and they will come back every year.

Looks like the weather will get above freezing from Friday nite April 17th when it is suppose to be 38°F to Saturday April 25th. But this is not carved in stone. As the saying goes here, if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

Everybody needs to become a weather bug to see what is happening as the weather can change day by day and sometimes even hour by hour. I call this the ‘shoulder season’ where one day it is warm and sunny and the next day/nite cold and freezing and always windy here in spring. These are our springs-ever changing but of course then June will come and we will get too hot! It is way to soon to plant any warm season crops yet. To be safe, wait till May 15 and later.  Last year we got snow on May 27 and the year before I was able to put out my tomato plants on May 7 in Wall of Waters. If the late spring weather really warms up or if you are a gambler, you may be able to plant warm season crops earlier but not without some protection. Otherwise you may be replanting…

If you are looking to start cool weather crops by seeds or starts in your garden, be sure to cover your plants with row cover. Winter weight row cover is best but 2 layers of mid-weight will work as well if you don’t have the heavier weight. I even keep the areas where I plant seeds covered and you can water through row cover till they are acclimated. That way as they germinate, they will get some protection. The row cover is also really good to protect baby starts from our ferocious spring winds which can wipe them out as well as our cold nights. I do flip row cover off the plants on nice days, then back on at nite. You can get this online. I have had friends put sheets over their plants and even one who wrapped a tree in a sleeping bag! Both froze-after all you need a body to keep things warm in a sleeping bag! I never said it would easy growing here in our area BUT you can do so with a few protections.

Beets planted by starts survived

I planted a week ago by seeds-carrots and arugula-they are not up yet. At the same time, I planted beet starts. They are suffering from those 21°F nites out in the garden but are alive. Shallots bulbs, kale and fava beans are all very cold hardy and doing well. Peas got eaten by some thing 4 legged. All were put out one week before this cold snap and all are alive because of row cover on them. All lettuces and spinach were in either my greenhouse or a coldframe and did fine, but they too were covered with 2 layers of row cover.

It seems like from Friday, April 17th the nites will get above freezing for at least a week. This would be a good time to start cool season crops outside whether by seed or starts. So watch the weather and don’t forget to hand water them!

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!

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 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.

Tomatoes planted on May 24-latest ever for me

Well now it is June 6 but want to catch up with what’s going on in the garden. All 31 of my tomato plants were planted in Wall of Waters on Friday, May 24. I had a wonderful crew-Bob, Tom and Janine (yes another Jannine!) and me. I hurt my good knee and was hobbling around so I am grateful for their help. Many thanks!

We got it done so quickly that we also planted some Italian beans by seeds, transplanted pepper plants (in wall of waters too), and transplanted some cabbage. With so much cold we’ve been having, I was happy to get them in when I could on a beautiful, warm, non-windy day. The beets and onions were planted 2 weeks before and are doing well. They could handle the cold.

Since that time I have been busy trying to get the last of the veggie garden in. More dry beans, winter squash, summer squash and cucumber seeds are now in the ground and I’m awaiting their germination. Yesterday I planted sweet potato slips. I have still have carrots and flowers to plant. Almost there!

The weather is now in the high 70s to 80 degrees- in the day and in the mid 50’s at night. Amazing how it goes from winter (last week it was snowing) to summer weather in just a few days.

 

 

 

 

Snow/freezing temperatures on May 20th, 2019

Tomato plants waiting to be planted outside

Here it is May 21st and I’m now glad I waited to put my tomatoes in. I have wanted to get them in the ground since early May, but it was not to be. Last year was much warmer and I got my tomatoes in by May 6th. What a difference a year can make. Last night, it got down to 32°F and snowed. Not enough to stick on the ground but we are past the magic date of May 15th which is suppose to be the first frost FREE date here in zone 6b according to USDA. We’ve had a different spring here in Santa Fe with colder temperatures and lots more precipitation throughout winter and spring than last year.

So my babies are waiting to go into the ground in wall of waters till this Friday when it looks like this cold snap will be over. Wait. Wait. Wait. It will be in the 70s in the day and 40s at night for the next week and hopefully last nite will be the last of the freezing weather. And even though we will hopefully be past any more freezes, it still gets plenty cold for a tomato plant at night. They hate the cold. A good way to ensure they won’t get stressed or die if we get more cold weather again is by planting them in wall of waters. Here is a post on Wall of Waters 101. Meanwhile I wait—ahh crumba!

apricots this year? first time in 12 years!I hope my apricots will be ok. I’ve got a treeful of them right now and haven’t had an apricot harvest in 12 years! I will keep my fingers crossed that this freeze didn’t kill them. Ahh mother nature, whata ya going do?!

Tomato plants transplanted into pots

This past Friday, April 19, all the baby tomato seedlings were transplanted from the germination trays into 2.25 pots where they will stay until we plant them outside. There are 155 total tomato plants.

My main helper, Linda Archibald has been doing this with me for about 4 years and this year Tom Pollard joined us to learn how to do it all. It took us 4 hours to transplant them. Thank you folks! There were 4 tomato no shows which isn’t bad for how many we planted. It is amazing how fast the seedlings grow since it has only been 16 days since we planted seeds.

We use Moonshine potting soil from Agua Fria Nursery to grow them in-amazing stuff as everything grown in takes off really fast. So now they are off the heat mats and still inside under lights that will be 3 inches away from the tops of the tomatoes. I put the lights close so they grow sturdy stems. If you put the lights higher they can get too tall and lanky. As the plants grow, I raise up the lights with them. I will actually have around 28 tomato plants and Linda will have 59! The rest are orders. Looks like it’s going to be a big year for tomatoes for Linda! I hope she buys another freezer to store all that sauce she’s gonna be making! I’m hoping to get them out in early May again this year but Mother Nature will decide when they will go out, not me!

FREEZE ALERT!!

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.

Tomato seeds starting to come up April 9th

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.

Plant Greens in the spring!

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.

 

TONITE: BIG FREEZE WARNING for Santa Fe!!!

One day it’s 78° for a high this week-warm and windy and tonite it will be very cold and windy with the temperature dropping to 24°. Of course this will wipe out the fruit tree blossoms (for me the apple blossoms are just starting) and there goes another fruit crop for this year. This will be the second year in a row that we may not get apples. Waaa! And forget about the apricot trees. I haven’t seen a crop in 7 years. You know what you call an apricot tree? A nice shade tree-as we usually get a freeze that wipes out their blossoms.

So cover up any plants that you may have put out early with winter weight row cover or 2 of the mid-weight row covers for the next two nights even if they are cold hardy crops. The plants are actually affected by the wind chill, just like us. Then it warms up in the 40’s on Sunday and Monday except for next Tuesday when the night-time temp will drop again to 30° and then warms up again at nite to above freezing temperatures. And so it goes with the ‘shoulder season’ where the weather doesn’t know if it’s still winter or spring and the winds are ferocious. But what we need most is precipitation. I’ll take it in any form.

Watering in early spring- how much in a greenhouse, hoop tunnel, or cold frame?

Just got a great question from the earlier post. How much do I water in winter-early spring in my greenhouse? Not very much. Since I don’t have the drip systems on and I don’t want to empty hoses that might freeze, I fill up 5 gal buckets, leave them inside the GH and then fill up my watering can from them and water the plants. Five gal buckets are kinda heavy for me (40 lbs) so I prefer to transfer the water to a watering can. Or just fill up a watering can from your house and refill as needed. The only problem is my greenhouse is too far from my house to keep refilling a watering can from the house. Notice the white row cover on the side, ready to go back on the greens tonight when it gets cold.

This time of year is called the ‘shoulder season’—not quite winter and not quite spring-with extreme temperature swings from day to night. There is no set formula for watering because one day the temperature can be 60°F and the next day in the 40’s°F or even 30’s°F. Same with nighttime temperatures.  Or you structure might really heat up in the day if you forget to open the doors or plastic on the ends or open the cold frame. So there are lots of variables that will affect how much to water. I really watch the plants and the soil in regards to watering when I have to do it by hand. Does the soil appear damp after your last watering even though its been maybe 4-5 days? Don’t water. Do the plants look like they need water? Are they looking stressed? Wilted? Water! The cooler it is, the less you have to water. I don’t water till the soil FEELS dry when I put my finger in it around a plant. But I can tell you this, you will be watering much less than in the heat of summer.

 

Greens in the Green House!

So my greens made it through the worst of winter (I hope) and have really started to kick in growing. They went on hold (stopped growing) from around Thanksgiving to mid-January when we had less than 10 hours of daylight. But since then the daylight hours keep increasing daily which is a signal for the plants to grow again in earnest. In case you are wondering when I planted all this, I planted the carrots, arugula and spinach last September inside the greenhouse, and the red and green lettuces I started from seed under grow lights inside my house on January 2nd and then were put out in the greenhouse in early February.

To keep the greens from freezing in the dead of winter in the greenhouse which is unheated, I’ve cover them with one layer of winter weight row cover every night and on some really cold nights (when temperatures got down to 14-17° F), I put two rows of row cover over them. One night the lettuce actually froze. But I read in Elliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook that if you don’t harvest it when it’s frozen, it may be fine by the afternoon when it warms up and sure enuf, it thawed out and is still growing great. You just can’t harvest it when it’s in a frozen state.

My Greenhouse a few summers ago

In the greenhouse are some carrots which aren’t very big yet (about the size of a pencil in circumference) some green and red lettuces, arugula and spinach, all of which will be harvested before the Green House (a play on the word greenhouse since my greenhouse was painted green) gets too hot. In fact when the day temperatures reach the 50’s, I put fans on to blow the heat out of the greenhouse.

 

Pray for heat, girls!

You see, I don’t worry about it being too cold but worry about it getting too HOT which will cause the lettuces and spinach to bolt (make flowers) which will cause it all to go bitter and then it is only good for our chickens who don’t seem to mind the bitterness at all. In fact I think they pray for the heat!

Looks like some of the lettuce and spinach are now big enough to pick the outer leaves while leaving the inner leaves to continue to grow. And a big bonus for me is to see so much green now already at the start of March! I love going into the greenhouse right now. Refreshing when the outdoor plants are still sleeping…

Extending the Season-Making a Low Tunnel

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These broccoli transplants were put in on Aug 24, 2106

I taught a class in late August on Planting for a Fall Harvest where I showed the students you don’t have to have a Greenhouse to extend the season. You can also have a cold frame or even simpler is what I call a low tunnel. Now with the cold nights, you definitely need something over your new fall transplants.

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Here is the frame of the low tunnel before row cover-just fencing material curled into a u-shape ready for plants underneath it

I like to make my low tunnels out of 2″ x 4″ fencing or even concrete reinforcement wire.  I just open up the fence roll, cut off enough so it will be curved above my plants and turn it upside down on the soil.

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row cover over the low tunnel protects crops at night

Cover it with winter weight row cover (1.0 ml).  I put rocks on mine to keep it from blowing away. Now you have a secure low tunnel that will protect your plants during the shoulder season that is closing in on us quickly. What is a shoulder season? It is the time of year when the temperatures can drop quickly at night near freezing and then heat up in the day. The temperature shifts can swing wildly during the shoulder season. We have a shoulder season in spring and fall. By making a low tunnel, you can extend the season and grow vegetables like spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, bok choy, mustard, mesclun, radicchio and other cool season crops much later. Fall is a great time to plant cool season crops and it’s not too late if you get transplants now. It might be too late if you start from seed unless it’s lettuce. Try to pick varieties that are cold tolerant.