Winter Planting for Success
Last October 2010 we discussed the weather pattern predictions for where we are right now at the beginning of February 2011. The Woolly Worm predictions so far have failed miserably and the Science corner was right in predicting a warm winter. However, February and early March are snow months.
While the garden is tillable it is time to get the early planting of seed in the ground. Last garden season many new gardeners, and some older gardeners had a bad year. I suggest that gardeners are forgetting it takes forever for root crops to grow, mostly being harvested next winter. If you start now you will have the advantage of late winter moisture and the sun angle awakening the seeds of life.
Let’s get started. These sunny days and drying winds motivate me to get outside and clear up the Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) many of us dread in the gloom of sunless winters. More time outside allows us to get that Vitamin D going which boosts Serotonin and other brain chemicals into action. Keeps you happy. It is better to worry about a carrot than world finances. You can do something about carrots.
The garden soil needs to be tested for its pH value and if you go back in the archives you will find recommendations for proper additions of sulfur or dolomite limestone to adjust your garden beds for specific plant needs, or to generalize the entire garden for an average pH of 6.5 on your inexpensive test meter. A proper pH of the soil (Potential Hydrogen) adjustment gives you a big boost towards success. Garden sulfur and garden dolomite limestone are available at all garden centers; Southern States probably being the most available for major garden needs.
Different plants require basic fertilizer needs of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potash. This is normally seen in fertilizer pelleted bags of 40 lbs size in 8-8-8-, 5-10-10, 10-10-10 etc. You can pour all the fertilizer you want on the soil but if the pH is not adjusted within range of the plants needs, the plant will not utilize the fertilizer, and usually you have a lot of salt in the ground, which plants do not like anyway.
The current fertilizer scare in the world’s agriculture market is a lack of phosphorus. Before you get all worried and start stocking up on this element you can grow buckwheat in a bed with perhaps two or three plantings; the last fall planting is harvesting the plants seed. Besides grinding up the seed, for buckwheat pancake flour, the green plants produce wonderful green manure you till back into the beds for the next garden season.
I use a lot of rabbit manure – bunny berries – and in the past tons of chicken and goat manures. It takes years to build up an organic garden soil so that when you sink your garden fork into the ground and turn up the soil you have earthworms. The whole master plan is to encourage earthworms, which are gardeners in themselves, and produce
”castings” which the plants love. This natural process is the balance of nature and God’s love.
With the garden soil adjusted for the plant needs how you sow your seeds does not matter to the plant, as it is left alone to awaken soon. You may use beds, which is the easiest in the long run, but row –planting is good too. This week I will be sowing onion seed, carrot, parsnip, garden peas, beets, turnip 7 Top, parsley, and rutabaga. In another couple of weeks I will set my potatoes and onion sets since they are showing green sprouts. Our Garden-growing season starts early, as the latest predictions are for a long hot, dry summer. Then again, who knows – that’s the adventure. Maybe the wooly worm knows?
Last spring 2010 the influx of garden seed buyers was overwhelming and many stores and catalog orders were used up. Select your seeds early this year. Beat the rush. You will also note how expensive seeds are now and I have been harping on learning to save seeds. Remember hybrid seeds do not produce true. Look for heirloom, non-hybrid seeds.
This is a vegetable guide. I have posted a larger guide in the archives. Also read the beginning archives on adjusting soil pH.
BEETS: Ph 6-8, Fertilizer 5-10-10, space seeds about 2”. Thin as they get big and eat the greens. 60 days till maturity.
CARROTS: Ph 6.5, Fertilizer 5-10-10, space seed ½”, dribble with a mixed hand of seed and sand. Carrots like sandy soil. Do not plant with parsnips. An adjoining row of Salsify helps repel carrot flies. Thin and eat the seedlings. Carrot tops to the bunnies. 70 days till maturity. Surprisingly carrots only release their Vitamin A if a tiny amount of sulfur is present. So after they emerge very lightly dust the carrot bed with garden pulverized sulfur – just a dust now, otherwise you can make the soil too acid.
ONIONS: Ph 6-8, Fertilizer 7-7-7-. Planting by seed with early light varieties or mid season works well. Space about ½ inch, thin as desired. Healthy! Onion sets – the bulbs can be started later once they sprout. Look for nickel size bulbs, not the tiny dead shrunken ones in the barrel. Also start looking for wild onions (Ramps), now up about a foot hither and yon, which taste strong, but are very healthy in soups. I usually transplant them this time of the year in with my Iris and save seed of course.
PARSNIP: Ph 6.5. Fertilizer 5-5-10, space fresh seed about 2” apart. These grow big. Leave in the ground until the first freeze- then they are sweet. Fried parsnip- yum! Parsnip seed, like carrot seed, is only viable for 1 year. 100 days till maturity.
GARDEN PEAS: Ph 6.5, Fertilizer 5-10-5, lots of different pea heights require poles or fence. I just make a bed and broadcast the peas (Wando for heat tolerance) on the bed hither and yon, rake over some soil to a 1-inch depth, place some sticks among the vines for support and harvest in 60 days. Pole peas produce the most and in April you might start Hubbard squash under the tent of pea vines left to wither.
TURNIPS and Rutabaga (Swedish Turnips): Ph 6.5, Fertilizer 5-10-10, space seed about 3 inches apart, or just thin. Most old timers plant these mid summer for fall sweetness, but try a spring planting. Young turnips are yum!
PARSLEY: Ph 6.5. Fertilizer 5-10-10. Very healthy plant. Grow lots along the borders. You will have a stronger heart. Juice parsley too. Dribble tiny seed with sand. Thin, as it gets bushy. You can also start this in the greenhouse and set out later.
Let us hope for a nice warming spring but a cold snap and freeze can happen. I have grown lettuce in the garden with a plastic row cover at –10 degrees F. Just cover your seedlings if there is a frost and uncover in the morning’s sun. These plants are tough and need to be planted early.
God Bless and Good Garden Luck.
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