What I am doing now (in a colder climate)

Even though I am in a colder climate, I am trying to see the germination of my seeds, and planning what to plant and how to plant it. What steps do you do for your own garden? Where are you doing now for your garden? Planning? Seedling? Biointensive? Harvesting?

—Christina


Comments

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @heirlooms777 What growing zone are you in? I am 5B but in the foothills that's misleading.

    I am starting veggies that need an early start (onions, leeks, hot peppers)

    Wintersowing - a lot of perennials, flowers and old seeds that I am not sure of the germination

    Lights are set up for indoor sowing.

    windowsills have sprouts and microgreens growing.

    In two weeks I start my cold seaso0n crops and peas

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie We are a 5b/6a in western Michigan, traditionally a 5b, but summer months getting warmer so more like at 6a.

    I am impressed with what you are all working on! We can start onions now, and I guess any herb from seed indoors now. I am still trying to learn, so I planted barley (micro greens for the bunnies) and spinach, thinking of trying a couple of some seeds to see if they sprout. I need to throw some native Michigan seeds in dirt in milk containers for winter sowing, as they are in the refrigerator right now and need to warm up and get cool for awhile. Also looking around the house looking for anything that looks like it could sprout to see what will happen.

    @Michelle D what are you going to start from seed?

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin

    I'm in the cold climate of 3b and dry too, considering that we don't have large bodies of water to the west of us!

    What I have done is go through my seeds and figure out what I need for this year. I figured out what I needed to plant more of & what new things I might wish to try. I also figure out if I need to replace any seed starting containers & where the best price is to be found.

    Next, I order.

    On one of our coldest days (yesterday lol), I sat down and did a rough draft of a plan. I need the measurements of the garden. It roughly got doubled last fall. It isn't square either, so I have to remain flexible in my plan.

    When planning, I try to figure out what I need to do to make things easier and more efficient, as well as fun changes, companion planting & making sure nitrogen plants go where heavy feeders were last year.

    As you know, I'm growing pumpkins in my kitchen. There are 26 lively sprouts now. Silly me. They can't go out until early June. I guess we'll prune & try eating pumpkin leaves!

    I have tested my seed in past years, but don't plan to this year. Most leftover seed should still be pretty reliable.

    Next up, finishing putting in the remainder if my orders, setting up my starting space at a window, and planting by order of "plant ____ weeks before last frost" notes.

    I went through all of my seeds last year & made a chart that covers this, along with my calendar dates. It makes early seed starting so easy! I suppose my next step should be (after finishing buying seeds, etc.) revising it to include new seed purchases.

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,377 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm down south and it's deceptively warm here right now in the upper 70's. It makes me want to start some seeds, but I know there will be more cold weather soon and several more freezes.

    So, since my daughter is off at college and there is another bed in the bonus room that she sleeps in a lot when she comes home, we moved her bed to one side of the room and put some plastic down and a coffee table in front of the window. I'm going to try starting my seeds in a few weeks in there so I can close the door and our cats can't snack on them.

    I know I want to start tomatoes and peppers. Everything else I can just put the seeds in the ground which means I have to wait. I was thinking of planting some carrot seeds in my rectangular self water container. I planted small carrots in it last year and they grew really well. I miss the taste of homegrown carrots. The ones from the store are blah.

    I've been thinking where I want to plant everything this year. I have a new raised bed that I'm thinking of putting tomatoes in. It's good to think about something other than all of the craziness going on in the world!

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,116 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am also in zone 3b as @LaurieLovesLearning and @torey is. Though I have learned there is much more to it than just the zone. I recently watched a video which said the important Temperatures are not just the lows. It is more important to know your calendar for what the temperature ranges are for cooler crops, the sweet spot where most everything will grow, and the high temperatures. Then you can work it from the calendar.

    You can plant cooler weather crops before other crops and again at the end of your season, and during the hottest part of the season you can grow things that can't take the cooler temps. and so on.

    Also, of course, they point out how to extend the season with cold frames, row covers, and green houses.

    This year we are basically starting over (again). Clearing an area of trees, underbrush, mosses, etc. for the garden to finally have a permanent home.

    We will also be growing many items hydroponically in what is called the Kratky system. It did well for us last year.

    Already purchased my seeds. So when I have a bed to put them in, I will be ready.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin
    edited February 2023

    @vickeym You are correct. Your zone 3 is certainly different from my zone 3, and it will still be different from Torey's. It just gives a general idea. Generally most plants/shrubs/trees are sold with a zone indicator as well, and sun/shade, possibly other things, but not much else.

    Could you start a new thread on the hydroponic system you mentioned? Just so everyone knows what follows, I'd suggest having hydroponic & Kratky in the subject header somewhere.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin

    I am quite dry in my zone 3b/4a climate but others in the region that have the same rating can be quite a bit wetter, especially if you are around any of the bigger lakes closer to the mountains. Soil types are often quite different, too. So those factors will definitely impact what you can grow in zones that have the same rating.

    I haven't started any seeds yet. I haven't checked with the almanac to see what kinds of weather trends are forecast for this year. Usually my daughter is the one to get excited first and start plants but she is busy doing some renos at the moment and hasn't motivated me to get going.

    @vickeym Good luck with your new garden site.

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @heirlooms777 I usually start just about everything from seed. The big decision for me is whether or not I will start them indoors or in the ground. So far this year I have decided to start tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli indoors.

    I have actually put most of my own garden planning on hold this week after being asked to plan, start, and run a community garden for a new assisted living center in the area.

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    @Michelle D that is wonderful, starting a community garden. What are you doing to start it? Do you have to break up the ground? I heard chickens do a great job of eating all of the grass, exposing the dirt for a garden bed. Or perhaps cardboard for lasagna gardening? Or gardening cloth? If some people are in wheelchairs, are you going to have raised beds; just remember, when the roots touch the bottom, the plant thinks it is the “end of the world,” and “closes shop,” creating seeds for the next generation.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    the soil is still frozen here, although the first snowdrops are blossoming. The snow comes and goes. During sunny days I clean the flower beds from dried herbs, especially oregano, echinacea… I am starting pruning apple trees, currants, gooseberry bushes.

    Inside, by the balcony doors I have sown pepper, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and Sellerie.

    next I am making a list of the seeds I want to buy and then buy them.

    and I want to multiply geraniums by putting cuttings into water.

    and, I have to add, I am already in a real gardening mood 😊

  • Michelle D
    Michelle D Posts: 1,465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @heirlooms777 right now we are still just in the ideas phase for all of it. I need to have several conversations with the management before anything is decided. I think the first hurdle will be choosing a location. It is a large property with lots of wildlife. We need to choose a spot close enough for it to be convenient for all the residents but far enough that it isn't in the way of coming and going.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Michelle D Good Luck with the community garden. That is such a great idea and at an assisted living area to boot. Keep us updated.

    @jowitt.europe Love all your planting by the door! Normally I would not be doing much outdoors, but this weather is crazy. I am still going by my normal growing times, but I am able to forage and move plants and take more cuttings to start. I may even be able to divide plants. (They will have to be under cover or in the basement for a bit but will still have a jump start in spring.)

    I always start geranimums. I usually put them in soil and use willow water to water with and honey on the roots. I make a plastic dome for the pot to keep humidity up. I have great luck with this system.

    @heirlooms777 have you started any winter sowing yet?

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    @Monek Marie I read what you wrote about starting geraniums. Why willow water? And honey on the roots! If it helps, I could add some honey into water for the cuttings in order to develop their roots faster.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @jowitt.europe Honey is for preventing any bacteria. Willow water promotes growth.

    I used to buy the premixed rooting hormone but it's expensive and when you read the label you will see its ponl7y good a few months after you open it.

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie I have started seedlings, but just to see if my greenhouse shelves work well, and to see the viability of the seeds, and because it is fun. Heavy on the fun. I need more heating pads and lights, well, more of everything :))

    I am trying to actually plan and RECORD (my personal nemesis) everything I do this year, so I can use the notes in the future. In her book, “The Grow System,” @Marjory Wildcraft said she refers to her old garden notes like scrap books, and refers to them often. Once started, I hope I can do this. I also feel that I could use this first year of “doing it right” in the future, and just tweak it a little every year. Although “doing it right,” is that even possible? We fall, we get up. We fall, we get up……. For me it’s the getting up and trying again that is so beautiful (although sometimes difficult, honestly).

    I am trying seedlings in my home for the first time on shelves with greenhouse lights. I want to do biointensive gardening, but right now my seedling trays are 2 1/2 inches deep instead of 3 and 6 inches deep, so still trying to figure that all out. I also bought (crazy noisy) block makers, not sure I want to mold block with that scratchy sound (I’ll try coconut oil to loosen it up, but I don’t have high hopes). I want to learn more from @TomBartels, amazing stuff.

    I am trying not to do too much, as I and my friends are seed collectors and I can go a bit crazy here…..

    A little stevia plant I bought years ago flowered, seeded, and I want ALL of these hundreds (it seems like thousands) of stevia seeds to grow. And God bless her, Lori Rose looked up how to start this fun plant. I hope I just don’t kill everything. The farmer I bought this little stevia plant from said he had twelve seeds, two sprouted, and I bought the only seedling that survived, and he said he thought that was pretty successful. I do too.

    I have homesteaders should sell a little something. Someday my dream is to grow most of my food, but I will still need some things like chocolate ;) , so perhaps if I don’t kill everything I can grow these stevia plants, etc., as a side gig (maybe my seedling friends will sell them for me? they said to find an audience, etc) in addition to the French angora wool bunnies.

    This IS my definition of fun!

    —Christina

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @heirlooms777 a scrap book or journal is a fantastic idea. Besides being a guide for future gardens it's fun to see your progress.

    I like the soil blocks. I didn't think I would but a friend had one and it turned into a must have, especially for certain plants where I want less root disturbance.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    I would like to get a soil blocker. Looking to get one locally, but no luck so far.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    thanks for the idea. I will add these two to my geranium babies :)

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie with winter sowing do you mean putting native Michigan plants in milk containers in seedling mix (with the cap off) to germinate the seedlings? Or is there more than that? I have some seeds in pots over the winter, but it is time to do the above with my plethera of native medical seeds. Other suggestions? —Christina

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @heirlooms777 As you see from the replies, a lot of the regular posters here on TGN are in Zone 3 or 4. I am in Zone 4b. So you can absolutely have a great garden in Zones 5 and higher.

    A lot of plants can be started directly outside in Zone 4 (or 5/6).

    Lettuce, spinach, peas, mustard, collards, cucumbers, beans, and squash all do well when seeded directly in the ground. Peas can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, well before last frost, and lettuce, spinach, mustard, and collard are also quite cold-tolerant and can be planted weeks before last frost. Beans, cucumbers, and squash can be planted directly in the ground after last frost.

    Onions can be purchased as transplants or "sets" of small bulbs and planted outside in the cool of spring. Or grow multiplier onions, which are perennials and will keep coming back every year, easily wintering under a layer of mulch.

    Garlic should be planted in fall and allowed to winter under mulch. Remove the mulch in spring, harvest in mid-to-late-summer, then replant a few cloves shortly before first frost. Each clove will develop into an entire bulb.

    The only plants that really need a head start in our climate are tomatoes and peppers. These need to be started inside from seed, either by you or by your local nursery. Transplant them immediately after last frost. I often plant tomatoes a week or so before predicted last frost. If the frost doesn't happen, all is good, if a frost is predicted one night, I just cover them up with a tarp or row cover material.

    It's time for me to start my tomato seeds inside today to get them ready for planting in mid-May.

    Good luck with your garden!

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy This is amazing, I didn’t know so many things could be started so early in the season. The CSA I volunteer at is starting onion seeds now, and will start other seedlings in a couple weeks.

    I think I will follow this schedule as you have it here. Thank you!

    —Christina

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 2023

    @heirlooms777 Christina, even many experienced gardeners seem to think that they shouldn't start the garden until after last frost. They are losing weeks of good vegetable harvests.

    I can sort of see the benefit in warmer climates like Zones 8 or 9, where gardners have a short, mild winter and want a break from gardening, but in any climate where there is a real winter, early planting is the difference between getting a good spring harvest and getting nothing until summer.

    Also, you can replant the cool-weather greens in late summer and grow and harvest them through fall, well after last frost.

    If you build cold frames, you can continue growing and harvesting some very cold-tolerant plants through winter.

    I recommend getting Niki Jabbour's book The Year Round Vegetable Gardener. Jabbour is located in Nova Scotia, in about zone 5/6, and she gardens year-round. The book is full of pictures, some showing an open cold frame covered in snow that it is full of healthy plants. Her techniques won't work in all climates, but they are worth studying.

    My own Zone 4 garden doesn't quite manage that. I have cold frames and I can grow lettuce and spinach into early winter, but it's about 50/50 whether they actually survive the winter. On the other hand, my claytonia easily stays alive all winter and resumes growing in the spring, so I am eating green claytonia salads as soon as the days start to get longer again, before most people even think about the garden. And I plant more lettuce, spinach, and mustard in the cold frames in early spring, before the outside ground is quite ready for planting.

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy I am taking your advice on everything. The ground should be workable tomorrow in Michigan, going to prepare my beds and get peas in the ground. I have green arrow peas, little marvel peas, sugar snap peas, and my friend (who sells tomato and pepper seedlings) gave me some or her older seeds, although they may not germinate. What variety of seeds do you use for peas and everything else? Thanks! -Christina

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Varieties really depend on what you want and how you will use them.

    I focus on shelling peas, not snow or snap, so I grow a mix of Lincoln (bush peas) and Tall Telephone or Alderman (pole peas).

    For lettuce, I grow a mix of crispino and pirat. Many other types also work well. It's hard to go wrong with lettuce.

    For spinach, I prefer giant winter spinach.

    For mustard, I grow giant red mustard.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I wrote: "Also, you can replant the cool-weather greens in late summer and grow and harvest them through fall, well after last frost."

    That should have read "well after first frost." Changing one word makes a big difference to the meaning. :-)

  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭
  • heirlooms777
    heirlooms777 Posts: 208 ✭✭✭

    What is your crop plan?

    We are trying to start a group out here in Michigan to help each other with gardening, such as starting seedlings, canning, fermentation, helping with the gardens, etc. We are also helping the poor learn how to garden.

    I rent, but I have four 8’x4’ garden beds in a local community garden, and I am gardening in huge bins and buckets around the house (it’s amazing what you can do with bins — almost the whole garden for one person could be done in these). I also am helping others with their gardens.

    Today I’ll prepare a couple of the 8’x10’ beds and plant something , like peas as suggested by the amazing @VermontCathy . At her recommendation, I might also put in the ground today lettuce, spinach (I will transplant seedlings and direct seed), mustard, and collards, although I’ll keep an eye on it, and cover with a sheet when it’s cold, which does happen in Michigan. (Looking for greenhouse fabric). I’m trying to decide if I should direct seed blue Hubbard squash and butternut (for storing in winter), and still need winter trumpet squash, which I will use early like summer squash and then let the best grow out into winter squash.

    I am learning to use soil blockers (thank you, @TomBartels ! — I figure if the soil is sopping wet when I start I won’t kill everything :)) I’m using the soil blockers to starting now: celery; leeks; onions; cabbage; collards; kale; kohlrabi; Swiss chard; mustard; yarrow (although it needs to warm up from its chill in the the fridge so the seeds don’t get moldy); savory; parsley; eucalyptus; local rose mallow; and maybe marsh mallow (same refrigerator situation, new seed); local Canada wild rye and barley (cover crops for at least the paths to walk on, wanting to follow biointensive gardening with 70% cover crops like daikon, Canada wild rye, other grains); local echinacea; and maybe some shorter sunflowers in huge pots.

    Here is a draft of my garden basing it off of my friend’s garden (see picture). This is one and a half plots of my four plots. I’m looking for a better trellis than the wooden sticks I have been using.

    What are you working on?

    —Christina

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I haven't completed the 2023 garden planning charts yet, but here is last year's plan. It's typical of my garden design, except that different families are rotated between beds, and the relative amount of each plant type varies from year to year.