Getting the Garden Started for Spring, Late

Ah, the month of April. It comes in fits and starts – cruelly tempting you with hot warm days full of sunshine, and then punishing your optimism by swinging violently back into winter. This past weekend we had a much needed injection of sunshine and heat, getting up to 80F and just as quickly this Monday we dropped 50F and had sleet and snow, continuing on into today.

But while we did have the nice weather, we took advantage. We spent lots of time outside with our son, walking around the neighborhood, chasing him around the yard. And while he and his pregnant mother napped, I took the time to get the vegetable garden ready.

First order of business was cleaning up the maple seeds covering the raised beds. These little helicopters were starting to sprout in the nice soil we had set up for the veggies last summer. Then we made a trip to the local garden store and grabbed some seed packets and a seed starting kit.

I spent some time marking off the square feet on the raised beds so I could better tell where each plant was intended to be, and then I sowed the carrot seeds, Walla Walla onions, and green onions. I had previously stuck a few garlic cloves in the ground once they’d started sprouting inside our fridge – we’ll see if they continue out in the garden. This is our first try and gardening, so I’m expecting plenty of losses. I planted only the most cold hardy seeds, since we knew a couple cold days remained in the forecast, and typical last frost date here is the very end of April.

Then it was on to setting up the seed starter. Inspired by Joe Hewitt’s post some time ago, I had ordered some neat varieties of heirloom tomatoes last year. Honestly, that post is beautiful and I strongly urge you to stop over and just look at all the varieties of tomatoes he grew. For references, we are trying out: German Red Strawberry, “Super” San Marzano, Coyote, Orange Russian 117, and Texas Star. I bought them from TomatoFest online.

So I set out to try and get seedlings started of some of those varieties – even though neither my wife nor I are big on eating tomatoes raw. We’re more of the pasta sauce or salsa tomato eaters, thank you. I’m a bit worried that we started the process too late and the growing season might not be long enough to take full advantage of them all, but I guess we’ll see.

For each plant type and starter disc of peat moss, I sowed 2-3 seeds. For the heirloom tomatoes, I used 4 discs for each variety, and am hoping to get at least 2 good plants each. My garden is likely to be crammed, so I don’t know if they’ll all fit if I do get that sort of yield – if so, I’ll try and get my parents to take them, since my father absolutely loves tomatoes. I think it should be interesting to see his reaction when he starts getting bizarre small yellow tomatoes the size of grapes, or large yellow-orange beefsteak looking fruit.

In addition to the tomatoes, I started off a large number of brussel sprout seedlings, zucchini, cilantro, dill, and sweet marjoram. The latter two are mainly just because we had leftover seeds from a “Chia Herb” set in our stockings from my in-laws last Christmas.

3 thoughts on “Getting the Garden Started for Spring, Late

  1. I’ve been contemplating putting in a raised bed veggie garden, and you may have just pushed me over the motivation brink! Sounds like a lot of fun. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned a lot about healthful food and eating. Now the next logical step is to grow some of my own food.

    • Hey Kurt, I hope you do take the plunge! Setting up the raised garden beds was pretty easy, and wasn’t too much money. The seeds and seed starter are pretty cheap too. It’d be nice to see how someone else new to this fares. I’m totally expecting a great deal of my seeds not to germinate, and probably quite a bit of a learning curve on transplanting, dates, and maintaining the garden. But in any case, it should be fun and I’m guessing my son will get a kick out of it too. I can say from my experience brewing beer that there’s a world of difference in getting a buzz off a 6-pack you bought from the store versus getting one off a couple pints that you brewed yourself – a great deal of pride and joy comes from my own pints. I anticipate the same feeling when/if we have any veggies come from this.

  2. Quick update: the brussel sprouts have already shot up some seedlings in the first couple days here! The packet of seeds we bought for those were some sort of special variety – they look like little red BBs. They’re intended to make sowing individual seeds easier and claimed to help germinate, and I can say from comparing to the “plain” seeds for everything else that they seem to be living up to those claims. I can’t recall the brand name right now, but for anyone looking to get started, check out your local garden store and see if you can find them. They’re more expensive but they do appear to be more beginner friendly.

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