Early start to the veggie garden for 2013

image This spring has been very unusual here in my zone 3 yard. During the last week of April we were inundated with snow and cold – ok maybe that’s not terribly unusual for Alberta. But on May 6th we set a new record high of 31C (that’s 88F my American friends). I brought out all of my seedlings to acclimate them and its too darn hot! I have to protect them in the shade for crying out loud. That’s just not normal.

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The forecast says that the risk of frost in the next week is minimal, and Edmonton’s average last day of frost is May 12th, so I should be home free, right? Well, as much as I’d like to believe that I think I’ll wait another week before I transfer my seedlings to soil.

But the weather has been perfect for sowing my vegetable garden. Here’s what’s going in the dirt this week:

  • Corn: Fleet Bi-Color Hybrid
  • Squash: Spaghetti
  • Sunflower: Ruby
  • Zucchini: Raven
  • Spinach: Regal
  • Swiss Chard: Lucullus
  • Peas: Progress #9
  • Lettuce: Esmeralda
  • Lettuce: Buttercrunch
  • Carrots: Touchon
  • Carrots: Scarlet Nantes
  • Beet: Chioggia
  • Bean: TendergreenBush
  • Potatoes: Kennebec
  • Onion Set: White
  • Onion Set: Red

As far as seedlings go I’ve sown:

  • Tomato: Black from Tula
  • Tomato: Tumbler
  • Tomato: Mamma Mia
  • Pepper: Serano del Sol
  • Onion: Spanish Candy Hybrid
  • Cucumber: Spacemaster
  • Eggplant: Hansel
Seedlings in waiting

Seedlings in waiting

I have some winter lettuce that will be ready to eat long before the head lettuces. I think I’ll plant a second type of cucumber as well. My chives, lavender, mint and oregano have all returned and I have ample garlic coming up in more than one place. I’ve got parsley and cilantro seedlings started and I’ve bought some basil, thyme, rosemary and sage bedding plants.

Yippee! It’s spring!

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Eating Fresh: A Raw Deal

 

Tumbler Tomatoes

My favourite time of the growing season is when I start to eat the fresh produce that’s I’ve affectionately tended since spring. Although I’ve already been into my herb garden for over a month and eating lettuce for several weeks, this was the first week I was able to enjoy some of the slower to develop vegetables.

My Tumbler tomatoes, both in the upside down planters and my regular tomato box, have been producing a few ripe red fruit each day. Sliced on a hummus and vegetable tortilla, the tomatoes are like a ray of sunshine caught in a tender juicy package.

My Mr. Big pods are long, plump, and full of sweet green peas. Any pods lower than a foot off the ground have been meticulously plucked by my dog and gleefully consumed while I’m not watching. It’s the price I pay for having taught her where they come from.

I pulled and peeled the first of sixty garlic bulbs which are now two seasons old. I’ve decided that garlic cloves pulled fresh from the garden and added to a salad are one of the finest things in life.

The second finest is vine-ripened peppers, and I can start picking my Banana peppers any time now. The more I pick, the more the plant will produce.

My bok choy and spinach have been struggling, primarily because of the feisty nature of local sparrows that appear to have an insatiable hunger for leafy dark greens. Those plants that I covered with wire mesh are toiling away and should be ready in coming weeks.

There’s a certain melencholy that comes with the beginning of the harvest season. Days are getting shorter, the sun’s a bit lower on the horizon, and it won’t be long before the peas are done, the lettuce bolts and the herbs lose their best flavor. I have to remind myself that there are still beans to come (another puppy favorite), potatoes to harvest and my personal favorite: juicy carrots to eat fresh and raw from the soil.

Planting in Egg Cartons

This year I decided to try a new technique for planting my lettuces and other leafy greens: egg cartons.

I filled a supply of paper egg cartons with sterile gardening soil and planted 2 to 3 seeds in each of the twelve cups. My theory is that as the plants establish themselves they should be able to break through the paper carton and ultimately grow as any other plant would in the garden.

Why bother? Well, it sure was pleasant to sit at my table in the sun planting the seeds rather than crouched over the dirt trying to sow a straight row. As I filled a carton or two, I’d walk them over to my garden bed and immerse them in the soil. A little water and they were good to go.

This technique also gave me control over the quality of the soil that they were started in. I used a Miracle Grow container soil with a small amount of 5-5-5 fertilizer.

Within a week I had signs of spinach and lettuce in the egg cartons, and in another week I’ll thin them out to give them plenty of room to grow.

Only time will tell if this technique will produce healthy plants, so watch for an update later in the summer.