I hope you are all enjoying the first days of spring! I have to say that our weather is very unsettled- just like spring is supposed to be, but with the added bonus of sunshine :).
We have been fighting windy conditions (thanks a lot La Nina!) and it has been a challenge to get my twice-temperedTerm coined by Eliot Coleman- Four Season Harvest pg. 109 'Evaluating the twice-tempered climate' tunnels up and running! I’d better hurry because the spinach, beets, and broccoli have been hardening off and will need to be planted. These are the multi-plant experiment, and so far I think it’s working.
Their true leaves are getting bigger and bigger- so planting time is not too far off.
Things are growing well in the small greenhouse bed- another experiment. I still need to build the 3rd lid for this bed- so far though things bounce back when it gets really cold.
I thinned and ate some of the radishes and lettuce- Mache will not be too far off and I’ve sowed anther 3 rows of it, although that will probably be the last I sow inside as the greenhouse temps are getting higher and higher during the day and they are a cold weather crop. You can’t see them, but they’ve germinated there in the middle (much better this time, I watered better!)
We ate our first baby radish and lettuce on the 18th- they were tender and yummy!
It’s not much- so why do I bother? Well it isn’t much, but the fact that I started these on the 22nd of Jan. in a zone 5, had –8 degree temperatures, high winds, and lots of wet snow and am still able to have fresh food from my small bed in the greenhouse…is huge! Now just imagine if I were to get a larger, longer high tunnel put up with low tunnels inside- we’re talking food year round even here where it’s cold! I love that and now I know from experience that it will work (thank-you Eliot Coleman!). If I started some crops in late summer, early fall and got them to a certain size they’d just sit there waiting for me to harvest all winter. In fact those crops would just now be finishing up and more would be in various stages of growth- about mid February when things take off.
For now I am going to try building mobile boxes to put inside the greenhouse on the benches- these will be used for the winter crops and will be covered with an additional ‘lid’ (twice-tempered) and then as these crops finish up they will be used as a nursery for outdoor transplants.
Other things I managed to get done recently- an additional shelf of lights in the nursery!
Since we moved, I’ve had to set up the nursery in the garage- and it’s cold. I’m not sure it’s made any difference with germination- but I’m keeping records. I also may have discovered new light bulbs to use- I don’t buy the expensive grow lights, I’ve always used one warm and one cool. Pat and I noticed ‘sunshine’ 5,000K bulbs- we’d never seen these before. It seems to me that they’d be a nice combo of cool and warm. After a little research on some forums it seems that others have used them with great success with their seed starting. Next time I have to replace bulbs (or I get another shelf up :) I’ll try them. Anyone have any experience with these?
I’ve also moved the mini greenhouse inside the bigger greenhouse- not sure why I haven’t thought of this before- this would give me twice-tempered conditions for 8 flats so I’ll be able to move things along better under the lights. I left the only 2 remaining pansies in there night before last- the low inside the greenhouse (not double cover temps) was 30.4 and I woke up to pansies that were not frozen- they are in a 6 pack. We’ll see how it works with lower temperatures tonight and with soil blocks that won’t have the plastic surrounding them. The babies in the greenhouse bed were covered and survived, but they are in the ground- I’m just not sure it would work with a flat of seedlings unless they are in a tray with a lid maybe- then they’d be thrice-tempered ;)- too much trouble? Probably. It will still give me a place to put more flats besides under the lights during the day- the seedling shuffle will be greater- that’s all. Ah the lengths we go to…
The lettuce and chives are up in a 200 cell flat I sowed- still waiting for the red orach to germinate.
I’ll be potting these up into paper pots when they get a little better- I remember when I discovered that leaving these plug flats under the lights, but without a tray below them will allow air pruning of the roots, not unlike the soil blocks. What a revelation! You can read about that here.
An update on the winter sown project…something is growing, but it aint the plants I sowed (yes, mom I said aint!)
I can only imagine how wet they’d be if I would have tried this in Portland. I’ve even opened them up to let them dry a bit. I did see one or two pansies and possibly a fescue- and the dianthus is still growing…through the algae :). This may take a bit of tweaking I’m thinking.
I hope your spring is coming along nicely!