Thursday, March 27, 2014

Preparing the Garden for Spring

How do you prepare the garden for planting?

They're calling for a lot of rain this weekend in northern New Jersey so I thought it would be an opportune time to get the garden ready for the season. It's a good idea to clean out and have some steady rain before sowing any seeds. In the past I've prepped the garden and sowed in the same day and then had really untidy rows once the soil settled. Rain will help settle the soil and make for much neater rows in the long term. This would also be a great time to add some compost to the soil to give everything a boost. I don't have any on hand so I'll  top dress with some later in the season. 

I never cleaned out the plants or the cages at the end of last fall, so that was top of the to-do list today. What else? The fig trees next door left a thick blanket of leaves that had to be cleared out and composted. I plan to replace the trellis so I wanted to disassemble the old one. The brick boarder and the stone pathways also needed attention. And I wanted to divide and replant the garlic bulbs that I forgot to harvest last year (oops).

Now it's ready to get a good soaking this weekend and receive some carrot seeds next week. I admit I did slip in some purple bunching onions from Pinetree Garden Seeds. The packet was from 2012 so who knows what the germination rate will be. 

Baby garlic, divided and transplanted for the 2014 season. 

I dug up this carrot from under the fig leaf blanket and tried it. Yuck. It had no flavor after 9 months in the ground and many days with frozen soil. So I don't recommend overwintering carrots in the ground. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seed Starting 2014

It was so cold and snowy this year that I got my seed order in a little late. So, I'm starting them a little late too!  Thankfully Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds processed and shipped my seeds so quickly that I had them in under a week. 

What seeds did I buy?
Sleeping Beauty Melon
Russian Red Kale
Amarillo Carrot
Chinese Red Noodle Bean
Red Wing Lettuce Mix
Philadelphia Fish Pepper
Topepo Rosso Pepper
Black Hungarian Pepper
Red Romaine Lettuce - free gift!

Not everything needs to be started inside, but I wanted to get the three varieties of peppers a head start. 

How do you start seeds inside? It's easy. I repurposed a plastic lettuce box from the grocery store, poked a couple drainage holes in the bottom, and used the plastic lid as a tray. 

I bought Jiffy brand seed starting pellets at the garden store, soaked them in water to expand them to full size, put them in my repurposed lettuce box, and put 2-3 pepper seeds on top. Then I covered the box with plastic wrap and put it by the window. 

Pepper seeds germinate faster in light but some seeds prefer a darker environment. (Baker Creek seed packets have lots of helpful info on the back!) 

I was supposed to start these 8-10 weeks before the last frost date, but I figure better late than never. It's either this or get lazy and buy whatever plants they have at the neighborhood big box store. I really wanted to try some new things this year. 

I'm hoping to grow the Hungarian Black and Philadelphia Fish peppers (both hot peppers) in containers on my balcony. The balcony faces south, gets direct sun all day long, and can get pretty hot. Last year I had a great hot pepper harvest out there despite it being a cool, wet summer. 

Next week?
I'm planting the Amarillo carrots out in the garden. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Between the Sheets... with Mao Mao

Who doesn't like a little help when making the bed?