Living on the Earth, March 31, 2000: Spring in the Garden
Spring is one of the busiest and most exciting times for gardeners. We're
practically surrounded now by the seedlings destined to produce this year's
crops. They're in the loft, on the sills of south-facing windows,
protected by a cold frame and in the garden.
Four weeks ago, we planted onion and parsley seeds in flats filled with our
best compost. They germinated in the warm darkness of our loft space. A
piece of plastic kept the soil moist until my frequent checking discovered
germination. Then, the flats went onto the window sills, where they were
easy to keep watered, weeded and turned to balance the light. These more
cold-tolerant plants were recently moved to a simple cold frame outside.
There they'll get more light and slowly become accustomed to changeable
outdoor conditions. We may still have to provide extra cover for the
onions on freezing nights because these young seedlings aren't quite tough
Last week, on the eve of the Equinox, we planted flats of tomatoes,
peppers, celery, broccoli and several kinds of lettuce. They were ready to
go on the window sill as soon as the onions and parsley were out of the
The four large flats of onions will be transplanted into the garden soon
enough to provide room in the cold-frame for the tomatoes and peppers from
mid April until they're set in the garden after the danger of frost has
Once seeds are planted, they require vigilance and regular care: Water,
light and warmth are all critical. The seedlings reward our attentions
with vigorous growth and a bountiful harvest of good eating. They'll let
us know if they aren't happy.
We tend toward larger containers which provide greater reserves of water
and nutrients for growing plants. If you need to buy a soilless mix for
starting seeds, it is probably good to add some compost. It brings life to
Although growing your own seedlings may seem like a lot of trouble, it is
pleasurable work with its intimate connection to the progress of the
growing season, the weather and the living things which sustain us.
Starting our own is the only way we can get the heirloom tomatoes and
really delicious hot peppers we want.
Outside in the garden already, there's arugula, cilantro, lettuce and
several kinds of kale coming up in our simple hoop house. This season
extender consists of a three-by-eight-foot wooden rectangle which sits on
the ground with hoops of old black plastic water pipe arching from the
front to the back. A piece of clear plastic attaches along the back edge
and to a board which can be rolled up from a closed position in the front
to half or all the way open. This time of year, the open ends of the frame
keep it from getting too hot on sunny days. At night we use clothespins to
shut the ends.
The peas I sowed last week should be up soon. We planted the Early Frosty
variety to shell for eating and freezing and Sugarsnaps for in-the-garden
snacks. There's still time for you to plant some peas, too. Because
germination and growth occurs slowly in the cool soil, a week or two
difference in planting at this time of year is not significant.
We've just harvested the final crop from last year, the Jerusalem
artichokes which have such a wonderful crunch just before they start their
new growth. Dandelions and nettles are providing the first greens of
The next month is prime time for starting cabbages, broccoli, tender
flowers, herbs, tomatoes and peppers indoors and peas and greens outside.
Discover the pleasure of growing your own vegetables. Now's the time to
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C)2000, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "Living on the
Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays Living on the Earth:
Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from Bill
Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $10 postpaid or from Amazon.com.
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