Its that time of year again. The weather alternates between warm and cold. One day, the sun shines, temperatures rise and you’re teased with the promise of summer. Other days, snow falls and you’re back to wearing your down jacket and boots. Now is the time to turn your attention to planting cold season crops. There are seeds that need to be planted while the soil and temperatures are still cool most of the time. Some say you can plant your peas on St. Patrick’s Day but only if the soil is not sodden with the Spring snow. Typically, I plant my cold season crops a few weeks later and sometimes not until mid to late April. My motivation to plant now is to enjoy the thrill of harvesting in early June — just about the time I am planting my warm season crops. (tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) With a little extra effort, you can harvest before the dog days of summer.
This year, it was April 5th when my garden partner and I planted shallots, spinach, radishes, and peas. We faced a community plot that still needed some clean up from the fall. But no matter, we worked around the leaves, straw and dead plants composting from last November. Since last week’s visit, another Spring snow blew through Denver so after that melts, we will plant more cold season crops — Swiss chard, various lettuces, more peas and spinach and onions. Carrots, broccoli and kohlrabi will follow in late April/early May.
At home, I am starting to plant seeds as well. Its too late for tomatoes and peppers (which I usually buy) but I’ll start some pumpkins, squashes, favorite flowers like zinneas and marigolds, and some herbs. The thing I’ve learned about starting seeds over the years is that you have to treat them very delicately.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use sterile containers and sterile planting mix.
- Use smaller containers to insure that the soil is warm for germination.
- Water from below buy using a pan or sheet under your containers.
- Use a grow light several inches above the surface with full spectrum lighting.
- Cover your seed pots until germination and sprouts emerge to keep moisture in.
- Uncover your seedlings at least once a day and blow on them or have a fan running near by. (delivering CO2)
- Harden them off starting the week before you plant. Place them outside in the shade near a building for an hour; a longer time each day. Stop fertilizing them the week before you plant.