Category Archives: winter gardening

Winter/Early Spring Sowing 101

Winter/Early Spring Sowing 101
By Lynne Roberts

An Important message about SEEDS: BUY THEM SOON!!  Last year, 2020, there was a major shortage of seeds across the country and in all the seed markets around the world…None of the Santa Fe garden centers nor plant stores nor the big box stores had any seeds left after the first cycle of early seed buyers…(Many of us who save seeds may have had some seeds for our own gardens and for sharing with friends and neighbors…). And the reason for that major seed shortage: NOT ENOUGH WORKERS TO SOW, HARVEST, PACKAGE, and SHIP those seeds from the farmers and the major seed producing companies, and NO WORKERS to PROCESS ORDERS to stores, in addition to a difficult Covid-19 growing season 2020.  SO, BUY YOUR SEEDS SOON, and locally if possible!!

So don’t despair-those of you who don’t have a greenhouse or cold frames in which to start your COOL SEASON CROP seeds in your garden!  Seeds like lettuce, spinach, Asian greens, cabbage, arugula, and many other cool season crops can be started outside with protection. It is totally possible to start your seeds outdoors, in the freezing cold, with a well-known method of seed germination, requiring just two things:  mini GREENHOUSES (made from recycled plastic/transparent milk-water-juice gallon jugs or large plastic soda or water bottles) and TIME with Olde Mother Nature. It is both easy and economical to start your own garden seeds in your own greenhouses, in your yard.

WINTER SOWING 101
My source is Kevin Lee Jacobs, at his website, “A Garden for the House.com,” who credits TRUDI DAVIDOFF with inventing, in 1999, this outdoor method of seed germination, in even the coldest of temperatures, starting in December, January, or even on February 14, on St Valentines Day and even later. You can google Ms. Davidoff, and see that she still has a foundation for teaching this easy method to students of all ages, around the world…

In 2007, when I first moved to Eldorado—land of gophers, rodents, “mouses,” impossible alkaline soil, and strong Mistral-like winds—I was NOT a happy gardener!!!!!

And then, I read Trudi’s and Kevin’s method for germinating seeds outside in the cold, using recycled mini plastic greenhouses! Ms. Davidoff urges everyone to use whatever free container that they can recycle, including plastic deli, fruit and veggie containers from the supermarket, aluminum foil circular and square containers from the Chinese restaurants and fast food restaurants, etc… Look around and see how much of this free, easy to recycle “stuff” is available to use as planters before it finally goes into the recycle pile at the transfer station.

MAKE A MINI-GREENHOUSE
So, we all know how seed starting indoors –without lights, with very limited space inside your bedroom, in your dining room or living room on wooden tables that will get water damaged from leaking plant pots, with not enough sunny window ledges nor enough Sun coming in anywhere inside your house or apartment –ENDS!!— IN DESPAIR, with irate and annoyed spouses, partners, roommates, and spindly starts, subjected to the dry air loving creatures (spider mites, scale, bugs, things) and mold and mildew or half dead plants…! (YES! YOU! In your HOME!!)

GARDENERS, let’s start out right and be successful!
Instead of leaving that 1/4” of milk, juice, or water in the bottom of the plastic gallon jug and putting it back in your fridge, hoping that someone else living in the house or a passing friend will empty it, rinse it, and take it out to your recycle bin (YES! YOU!), take that same FREE AVAILABLE container or milk/juice/water jug and empty its contents, fill it with some water, and rinse out the water (over your potting soil is good)

1) DISCARD the bottle top/cap of your jug. Take a medium drill bit and your drill (or heat a Phillips screw driver over your gas burner flame), and make enough holes for ventilation in the bottom of the jug (perhaps 10-15 holes) for appropriate drainage and ventilation, about 3-5 holes on each side, and 5-10 holes on the top of your transparent plastic container for ventilation…as your greenhouse will be watered with rain, snow, and sleet…

2) Just below the handle of your jug CUT around the middle of the jug, using an exacto knife, or a VERY sharp knife, or scissors cut about an inch be (add extra duct tape on hinge for support), the handle remains on the jug itself.

3) Add a good quality sterile seed starting or potting soil mix ( DO NOT USE SOIL FROM YOUR GARDEN) and fill the bottom part of your jug with about 2″-3″ of this good potting soil…Soak well, allow to drain thoroughly at the sink or over your pail of seed starting mix or good potting soil.  Add perlite to loosen the soil if your soil is slow draining.

4) Sow your seeds on the surface of the soil.  If your seeds are very small, there is no need for additional soil to cover… Leave them on the surface of your potting soil.  Larger seeds require only 1/8″ planting depth.

5) Labeling and taping-Use a permanent marker to indicate on the jug itself the following information: name of seed, quantity sown, date sown, days to maturity, height, possible planting location in your garden, and any other important info…Then, close the container’s hinged cover, secure it into place with 2-3 pieces of DUCT tape (it’s not necessary that the two halves fit tight; you will be able to open your jug greenhouse to check the water inside–rain, snow, sleet have been watering your greenhouse, supplemented by any additional water that you may need to add–to monitor the progress of your seedlings, and to check ventilation as the greenhouse will heat up and on sunny days become very humid…That is why NO cover or cap is needed on your greenhouse, as the vented top will permit excess heat and humidity to escape!)

6) Move your planted greenhouse jugs outside soon after planting them!  (YES,IN THE FREEZING COLD AND SNOW!!) . I place all the jugs in a shallow plastic box or on a tray with an edge or lip, and place that tray/box containing all the greenhouses (6-8) on a wire mesh patio table or in a large plastic recycle container away from the wind, on the south side of my house or in a very protected area…

When your seedlings are ready to be transplanted in your garden, you can take great pleasure in knowing that you have an easy and economical way to sow more seeds for your garden…And you sowed, nurtured, transplanted, and grew your plants all by yourself!!!  BRAVO, FEARLESS GARDENER!!

Starting COLD HARDY VEGETABLES Super Early

This post is courtesy of giantveggiegardener’s blog:

lettuce_greenhouse germinating

So now that the Persephone period is over and the magic date of January 15th is upon us, what does that mean? It means our day lengths are getting longer and today, January 15th is when we start getting 10 hours of daylight that will continue to get longer every day. Have you noticed already it now gets dark around 5:30 instead of 5 pm? The darkest time of the year is over. What does that mean to gardeners? To learn how to start cold hardy vegetable seeds super early outside and how also how to start them inside read on.

STARTING COLD HARDY VEGETABLE SEEDS OUTSIDE: cold frme opened
If you want to try growing cold hardy vegetables outdoors at this time of year, you will need a cold frame, low tunnel or hoophouse.

If you already planted cold hardy vegetables late last fall in a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house, you may have noticed that the little seedlings haven’t been growing much at all as winter set in. Now with longer daylight hours, they will start to grow again and barring any devastating freezes, they will continue to grow and you can get cold hardy crops earlier this spring.

In late winter, before you have harvest your winter crops, decide what you want to plant in your bed once space opens up in your cold frame.  As the end of the Persephone period draws near (January 15) , you can reseed the openings created from your harvesting or you could start planting seeds in your bed if you don’t have anything growing. My soil in my unheated greenhouse is at 40°F right now (as of January 12). Lots of cold hardy vegetables germinate in cold soil.  They will be slow to start at first but they will start as your soil warms up to 40°F and warmer. Now with the day light getting longer, you can think about starting early. The winter sowing you do will be ready for harvest by early spring, often long before the same crop when grown outside without protection. A bonus is many of the cold hardy winter crops don’t like our springs, bolting on the first few warm days so you’ll be able to harvest that spinach before it bolts!

Some cold-hardy plants planted inside a cold frame, low tunnel or hoop house can tolerate a hard freeze at night, provided they are allowed to thaw during the day. The plants must be completely thawed before you harvest them. In addition, put some winter row cover over seedlings at night to give them an additional 4-6°F protection even though they are already in a cold frame, etc.. Remove the row cover on days when it is above freezing. Watering is necessary to get crops started, but they will generally require very little water during the winter season-early spring once established.

STARTING VEGETABLE SEEDS INSIDE:
I’ve already written about starting seeds inside on many previous posts.
To learn all about starting seeds indoors to get a head start go here:
http://giantveggiegardener.com/2012/03/08/starting-seeds-inside/

WINTER HARDY VEGETABLES
The following list of winter vegetables to grow is from ‘The Winter Harvest Handbook’ by Elliot Coleman. This is a great book. These can be planted either as transplants (first started inside under lights) or outside as seeds in cold frames, low tunnels or hoop houses.

Asian greens-Tatsoi, Pak Choi (Mei Quing Choi), Mizuna, Tokyo Bekana,Komatsuna

arugula-Astro, Sylvetta

beets-Red Ace, Merlin, Touchstone Gold

beet leaves-Bull’s Blood, Red Ace

carrot-Napoli, Mokum, Nelson

chard-Fordhook Giant, Ruby Red, Argentata

claytonia

endive-Bianca Riccia

leek-Tadorna

lettuce-Red Saladbowl, Tango, Rex, Rouge d’hiver

 mache-Vit

minutina

mustard green-Toyoko Beau

radishes-Tinto, D’Avignon, Cherriette

scallion-White Spear

sorrel

spinach-Space

turnip-Hakurei

watercress