Tomato seeds planted April 5th

150 tomato seeds planted this year in these germination trays. 42 varieties

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…

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…

More daylight hours/plants start to grow again

Growing Spinach and Lettuce in a Cold Frame

The Persephone period is over. Elliot Coleman in his Winter Harvest Handbook, coined this name. When daylight hours are less than 10 hours per day, the plants that are in the ground slow down or stop growing altogether during this time. This means that the spinach or mache you planted last fall had slowed down and by Thanksgiving stopped growing. The Persephone period can be longer or shorter depending on what latitude you live in. For us in Santa Fe, it is from Thanksgiving to Jan 14th.  In states that are further north, they are still in the Persephone period. As the daylight hours continue to get longer and longer, you should notice the plants starting to grow again. I grew ‘Carmel’ spinach last fall in one of my beds up by my house and it is still alive, covered with winter weight row cover. I did this the year before and it survived and gave me beautiful spinach by March that I was able to harvest 4 times before it became too warm. If you didn’t grow anything to overwinter, you can now start spinach, Asian greens like ‘Tatsoi‘ and ‘Baby Bok Choy’, mache and some very cold hardy lettuces like ‘Winter Wunder’ and ‘Marshall Red Romaine’ once the soil warms to 40•F+. If you keep them covered with winter weight row cover to protect them from our cold nights, you will be able harvest them in early spring barring any devastating deep freezes. If you can’t wait and want to speed up the process, start the seeds under lights inside now and transplant them next month in February. To find other extra cold hardy crops to grow, go here.

NEW! ‘Veggie Gardening 101’ radio show starts Jan 14

I’ll be on the Santa Fe Master Gardener’s Gardening Journal radio show with host Christine Salem twice a month now. My original show gives tips and advice about what to do in a vegetable garden each month as the gardening season progresses. This assumes you have an existing vegetable garden.

We are adding a Vegetable Gardening 101 show. It seems we have many people here in Santa Fe that either have never started a garden or haven’t had success here in our challenging garden area. Many want to be successful organically growing their own food and need help on where to start. So I will take us from the beginning through planning and building a garden, creating good soil, raised beds vs in-ground beds, starting seeds, transplanting plants, varieties that grow well for beginners and even harvesting tips. This will be more basic info but even advanced gardeners might benefit from some of the tips I’ll be giving.

Go here to listen to past radio show podcasts and pick up awesome information -https://giantveggiegardener.com/radio-show/

Here’s the rundown:

SHOW #1—my regular radio show-‘Monthly Veggie Garden Tips’

Where:  airs on KSFR 101.1 on the Garden Journal

When: on the last Saturday of each month

Time: from 10:00-10:30am

Topics: What to do in our gardens for each month, problems that arise and solutions

SHOW #2—my NEW radio show-‘Veggie Gardening 101′

Where: airs on KSFR 101.1 on the Garden Journal

When: on the 2nd Saturday of each month

Time: from 10:00-10:30am

Topics: Beginning vegetable gardening from start to finish and everywhere in between.

Cold Weather Protection for Vegetable Gardens Class-this Saturday

Here’s the flyer info for my class this Saturday April 5th-Hope many of you can come-it should be good!

 

WOW pic for blog

 

Saturday, April 5
Cold Weather Protection for Vegetable Gardens
Protecting your crops in spring
Time: 10 am-12 pm
Instructor: Jannine Cabossel
Location: Whole Food’s Community Room (St. Francis location)
Please RSVP to 505-983-9706 or email: homegrownnewmexico1@gmail.com

Jannine Cabossel, a Master Gardener and ‘The Tomato Lady’ at the Santa Fe Farmers Market will teach a class about how to use row cover, cloches, hoop houses, wall of waters, and other items to get your garden in earlier with protection.

Jannine has extensive experience in growing vegetables on her 3000 square foot garden using all organic methods. Follow her blog at giantveggiegardener.com. Suggested $10 donation. Become a 2014 Member for $35 with $250 value-includes all classes, potlucks and tour.

Reflections on the gardening year

winter veg garden

Here is the veggie garden in winter-now asleep

Happy Solstice! Yea-the days get longer now-and here it is the end of the year. As I look at winter, the first two months of winter-November-December are done and only two more months of winter (January-February) to endure. Then its early spring and off to the races! But let’s slow things down a bit. December is a great month to reflect on the gardening season and look at what worked and what didn’t work in the garden during the past year and what I might do differently.

So what worked and what didn’t?

-I only lost 10% of my tomato crops vs. last year’s 50 % tomato crop loss to the dreaded beet leafhopper.  I covered almost all of my tomato plants with row cover from May 15th until the first week of July. The leafhopper leaves when the rainy season comes and this year they hung out till the beginning if July when it started raining. -The downside of this is I really don’t like NOT SEEING my plants hiding under the row cover-I like watching them grow, but that seems to be a tradeoff. Also I want to try to transplant my tomatoes outside earlier than May 15th to try to get tomatoes earlier.

IMG_3363

-Rotating my crops seem to help with diseases. I have everything on a three-year rotation, which is why I made an additional 1000 sq ft section last year, giving me a total of (3) 1000 ft sections.  I move the crops around so they only return to the same section every 3 years. The pumpkins use to have their own additional section in the horse corral but now that I have a horse (Koko), I will put them into the rotation in the main veggie garden since the corral has been reclaimed by Koko.

-Speaking of pumpkins, I need to find a way to keep critters from eating them although it was almost impossiblerabbit damage to keep the rabbits away early in the season when food was hard to find for them-even with 2 fences and row cover over the pumpkins, something ate my prized potential pumpkin plant, so I’ll be thinking on that one a lot more this winter. Plus I want to get the plants outside earlier too if I’m to have a chance to break the state record again…

-I covered my eggplants with row cover for a while this year thereby avoiding the first hail storm’s devastating damage. That first hail storm set back many of my vegetables due to the severe damage by about a month. The downside was aphids found the eggplants underneath the row cover and it was a battle to get rid of them. The aphids also went after the summer squash and peppers with all the rain we got. I controlled them with strong sprays of water on them and insecticidal soap. Also lady bugs appeared and came to the rescue eating many aphids (and I didn’t have to buy them). I think I need to remove the row cover earlier.

The almost finished greenhouse was unbelievably hot last summer-110°F. Too hot to grow anything which was ok as it wasn’t ready anyways. So after I work to button it up this winter, I will have to find ways to cool it down next summer. Still, I have a greenhouse! I’ll take the challenges it will present.

swiss chard hail damage-I have to say I enjoyed all the rain we got after 4 years of an extreme drought. The fruit trees loved all the rain but 2 more hail storms almost wiped out the vegetable crops especially the chard and squash. It was amazing anything survived plus the one week of rain that we got-about 3 inches-watered down the flavor of the tomatoes for about 2 weeks but then they bounced back.

Most of the problems came from Mother Nature and there is not much one can do about her-she does what she wants and we need to adjust. We always think we have everything in control and then wham! She does a number on us!

-I will grow more tomato plants and other veggies to sell at the Farmer’s Market as many people seemed excited to try some of the different varieties I grow. To this effect, I think the greenhouse will be great asset this spring.

So now I will be going over all the catalogs that are coming in and start to plan the veggie garden for 2014.

Happy Holidays!

2013 Garden Pictures

entrance insideout

I’ve been taking some photos of the vegetable garden the last few days. The light is so beautiful at 8 am every day that before I started weeding, I took these photos. Slowing down and and really looking how beautiful the garden is makes all the work worthwhile. Enjoy!

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