The past few days, I have found myself complaining about how cold it was outside, but to tell you the truth we have had a very mild winter compared to others! I was outside this weekend cleaning up the garden and preparing for spring and I noticed a few daffodils breaking the soil.Our winter has passed so quickly this year. It seems like yesterday that I just sat and looked at my plant room and thought I need to clean out the junk in this room and get organized. I only have a month left to tackle that job, so I have to squeeze it in between the first and second batch of spring plants. I have most of my first seedlings sitting under lights, and they will be placed in the garden in the next month! Here is a list of those I have under lights right now minus a few I will start today.
1st Batch of spring seedlings under lights
- Kale (3 varieties)
- Chard (2 varities)
- Arugula ( annual and perennial)
- Corn Salad ( Valerianella locust)
- Lettuce (red and greens)
- Miner’s lettuce ( Claytonia perfoliata)
- Salad burnet( sanguisorba minor)
- Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
- Dwarf Calendula ( to edge some of my vegetable beds)
- Mahogany Midget ( coreopsis tinctoria)
- Plains coreopsis tinctoria
- Sneezeweed( Helenium autumnal)
- Purple-Headed Sneezeweed ( Helenium flexuosum)
- James Kelway( Tanacetum coccineum) attract beneficials
- Golden Margarite (Anthemis tinctoria) attract beneficials
- Baby Blue Eyes ( Nemophila Menziesii)attract beneficials
- Black Prince Snapdragon
I have a second batch I start in late spring the week of St Patrick’s Day, which is around the middle of March. I have found that I needed a central point in the (spring) season to figure out when to start my late spring/ summer crops, for example, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. While this first group of cool season vegetables is hardening off, I begin germinating seeds of all my annual warm season vegetables, herbs and flowers inside under lights. I usually start ALL my other warm season vegetables, herbs and flowers directly outside.
Hardening off is one of my least favorite projects to do with gardening. I don’t have an outdoor greenhouse that I can shut up at night or any cold frames since I need all the growing space available on our small lot. When you harden plants off it means you have to keep an eye on them for if they stay out too long, too soon, you end up with dead plants during the hardening off process.
I have a sunroom that I use as a mini greenhouse. It has a southern exposure and two large picture windows that make an excellent area to harden the plants off from under the lights. I do not have room in my garden to put up a greenhouse, so I use this south facing room which works perfectly for plants once I take them out from under the growing lights. Once they are away from the lights for a few weeks, it usually starts warming up to the 30’s and 40’s during the days, and that is when I start carrying the trays of plants outside to spend time in the shade. I keep increasing their time outside and eventually introduce them to the sun slowly.
In our growing area (our city lot) the soil starts warming up towards the end of March. I know people who live in areas outside the city and they are often surprised to find out we are setting up our garden beds in March. Their soil is frozen solid! I estimate they are about 3-4 weeks behind us in the early spring. We can use this advantage to year-round growing in the city for our closely spaced buildings warm up our soil which means we have spring salads in April!
I love this young group of spring plants for they handle a frost and don’t mind a freeze at night if they are warmed up during the day. Some of the tender perennial flowers, I may have to wait a few weeks more due to them being a bit more sensitive, but the cole crops can handle this cold weather in our area. The historical pansies just love the cool days in spring and are usually gracing our salads about the time our spring bulbs are blooming!