Friday, March 20, 2015

A "Cool" Article

Just a short post today to recommend a really good article by Rebecca Krans in today's Michigan State University Extension newsletter.  Please see:
I have just one suggestion to add: using a broadfork or digging fork to loosen soil without turning it helps to minimize disruption of the soil structure and maintain populations of beneficial soil organisms. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thankful for the Thaw...and Onions

Before I start describing our plans for spring in the gardens, I have a little anecdote to share. A few days ago, just before the big snow melt, my wife lost one of her hearing aids. We looked everywhere we could think of for it--no luck.  The one possibility I feared was that when she had been out shoveling snow, it might have come out without her realizing it and been tossed into the 3-foot-high snowbank near the walk. I thought perhaps I might find it someday, or more likely, it would become part of the shrubbery or the front lawn. Well, yesterday I was on my way out to get the morning newspaper, and behold: there it was emerging from the melting snow on top of the somewhat lower remaining pile. And it still works! That’s the second reason I’m glad spring is on its way!

As always, the approaching vernal equinox brings happy thoughts of seeds sprouting and the first delicious fresh garden produce of the year. It’s still a little early for the outdoor spring cleanup (necessary because the fall cleanup was far from perfect), but definitely not too early for things to get moving indoors.

Actually, I have a little head start already. Seed starting trays are washed, some paper “pots” made, seeds purchased, and onion plants slowly growing under fluorescent lights in my cool basement. In recent years, I’ve been just purchasing onion plants, as they need an early start and some patience to be ready for planting outdoors sometime around the third week in April. In fact, I ordered quite a few plants for this year, scheduled for delivery in mid-April. But I’m resolved to grow more onions this year, as we’ve already used most of last year’s harvest, so I also obtained some Bridger and Yellow Borettana seed and got that started on February 12 and still looking more like a thin stand of lawn grass than onions.
That brown stuff on top is milled sphagnum (not peat!), which, along with careful sanitation, and good air circulation, helps prevent fungal damping off disease.

Aside from these, we’ll be growing mainly Candy (sweet as…) and Patterson again this year.  My few remaining Pattersons are as firm and crisp as on the late September day when I finished moving them to our cool basement after drying.

Our always-tentative indoor planting schedule for this spring looks something like this:
March 23 The first broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale
March 30 Kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, and spinach
April 6 Sage (needs light to germinate well) [I lost some of mine to
encroaching shrubs last year.]
April 13 The first tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and lettuce

About a week after that, we’ll be starting our first cool-season crops outdoors; but we’ll leave that for another day.