Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

New England is getting hit again. A little over a week ago we had a huge rain storm that gave us 10" of rain. I've lived here for almost 30 years and I'd never seen rain like that. Six inches isn't that uncommon, but 10" is pretty unheard of. Friends that had never had water in their basement before were getting wet. Winchester schools were closed for 3 days because the center of town goes underwater when we get 6" of rain, much less 10.

Yesterday and today, we got another 6" inches. It doesn't sound like all that much for us, but the reality is that the ground is saturated. The water tables are high already. There is no place for the water to go. It is at times like this I'm happy to be living on a hill. The garden looks very soggy, but it drains. I just hope my peas haven't rotten out yet. It all dries out on Thursday and I'll get a chance to check on it then.

I hope all the rest of you New Englanders are doing OK with the rain. I'm especially worried about Thomas and his garden. I just hope it all stops soon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Harvest Monday - 29 March 2010

I meant to go out and check on the spinach this last weekend. I really did. I probably could have had a harvest. I meant to transplant my lettuce and onions before this rainstorm we are having. I really should have. This last week was all about coulda, woulda, shoulda in the garden. The only thing that got in were radishes and the only thing that was eaten of the stores was part of a jar of apple butter. Pretty sad. I was just so busy, I was forgetting to eat and when I did I just grabbed cheese and crackers - and apple butter.

I have been busy working fixing up our house. The first showings start on April 6th. So far I have the garage cleaned out and the upstairs cleaned out. There has been lots of freecycling going on. This week I have a schedule to do all the rest. Then my daughter drops a bombshell on me at the last minute. She is looking at grad schools and had decided she wanted either Brown, Brandeis or Tufts from the schools that had responded already. I think she was counting on Brown, because it was the last one she saw and after it she was freaking out. She wasn't really happy with it after talking to the profs. So the next two weekends might entail flying to UC Davis and Buffalo. And she still hasn't heard from UPenn and Ottawa. So I might be flying all over come the next two weekends. Arrrrggghhh. Luckily my planting schedule says I don't need anymore inside seeding until April 3rd.

So I've not been holding up my side of harvest Monday very well. All I've got are excuses. I can only hope you all are doing better. So If you have a harvest or have been eating your harvests up in some way. Show me that life can be normal - at least our kind of normal, and add your name and URL to Mr. Linky below.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Crazy Garden Lady

So I'm moving to a townhouse with my friends. They are so happy to have me gardening. I think she wishes she were a gardener at times for all those fresh local vegetables. She is the one who educated me years ago about what a CSA is. I was clueless before then. She is the one who won the "Growing Chinese Vegetables" book for me at the Yankee swap in hopes of getting more Asian greens. She is always happy to take anything extra that comes from my garden and occasionally asks me for dill from my garden to make pickles (or maybe that was her husband making the pickles). She really wants me to put most of the yard into veggies. I was the one saying we needed a little back yard grass for barbecues.

I talked about having compost piles in the backyard and I was going to make her save her scraps, but I'd be fine with the work, she just had to throw it in. She said she wouldn't mind doing some of the work with that. I told her the compost would be in the part of the garden that is shaded by the fence (in full view out our back windows). Not a peep from either of them. I told them I collected leaves in the fall and would need a bin for them. No problem.

Fruit trees and herb garden in the front yard - go for it. We will be living at the end of a dead end private way and there is no turn around there so it is almost our driveway, and there is a rock wall on the other side with a sunny planting space. I intend to plant it up with vegetables and a few flowers to make it look pretty. I got lots of enthusiasm. Rip out half of the driveway for the veggies since it is the sunniest spot in the yard. Smiles all around.

So when they came over and we were discussing moving. I was pointing to my leaf pile and compost pile and talking about how in the world I was going to move it (I saved paper bags from when I played bag lady and collected them, just hoping they would be used this spring for just that, shhhhhh don't tell anyone). They said they thought the buyers wouldn't mind a leaf pile in the back. I told them no I needed to move it to the new house. They both looked at me like I was crazy. I think I've hit the limit. I have become crazy gardening lady. Now I just need a collection of funny hats to wear to make my image complete. I think a collection of hats with all the different beneficial insects on them would be perfect. What do you think?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Harvest Monday - 22 March 2010

Once again my harvests haven't started yet. I've been extremely busy but not in a gardening sense. Though it will really impact our garden. Today we are signing the final offer to buy a new house. And I do mean new. The builder is almost finished with it. We close on April 30th.

If things go well I'll get all the spring vegetables into my current garden and the summer ones into the new garden. The house is a townhouse with two units on one lot in East Arlington. It is just a few blocks away from several friends of mine. And the other unit is being purchased by my best friends. We are even putting a door between the units. They don't garden, but they are really happy with me putting in vegetable gardens in any of the sunny spots. They are happy to start composting and having compost bins in the back yard. The yard isn't big. I'm guessing about 7000 square feet (for both townhouses). There really aren't any big lots in East Arlington as it is more urban and less suburban. But if I garden in most of the available spots I think I will have about as much space as before. I haven't measured it out and designed it yet, but I'll get to it. And you will get to see the process I'm sure. At least if I have time. I didn't even have time to read any of your blogs this weekend. I hope to maybe today between the two real estate agents that show up, the plumber, the handyman, and two contractors. And the myriad of calls that I have to place. Life is crazy.

Also the new yard will affect my yearly tally. I'm not talking about not being able to harvest all the veggies - though that may well be true. But it will change the cost. The yard is not landscaped and part of the deal with the builder was that he didn't have to do any of it. The odds were we would rip it out anyway. In the two houses I've owned so far, I have always ripped out the landscaping and replaced it. I don't know why people put in boring yews that want to grow to 10' as the foundation plantings in the front of yards. Yes they are unkillable and cheap but really? And one side yard and over half of the back will be in raised beds anyway. I'll keep a tally of what it costs to put in the raised beds and compost piles and such. I don't think I will add the hardscape since I would put some in anyway, but just not like I'm going to do it. I'll have a brick path to the back door from the driveway and through the garden. If I didn't have a veggie garden I'd probably have a back patio for a table and chairs and that would cost just as much. The funny thing is some of the plants would just be ornamentals, but instead will be things like blueberries and dwarf peach and apple trees, but if it is an edible I'll add it in to the tally. So this year it will be how much an new garden costs, not really a year to year cost.

If you would like to join Harvest Monday with a tally, a harvest or how you are using it, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Peas in the Garden

My life is very crazy right now. I either get a lot done all at once or I'm acting like a deer in the headlights. I really needed a bit of time in the garden to regain my peace. And luckily my peas needed to be planted.

I couldn't ask for better weather for it. It got up to 65F (21C) yesterday and the sky was a brilliant blue. My first chore was to lay out the bed and figure out where everything would go this year. The alliums get the full four feet width (1.2m) of the bed so I marked one foot for the leeks and four feet for the onions and put in little sticks to mark the edges of where they go. I marked out 32" (0.8m) for my chard I want four rows this year. It might be too much but I wanted more to freeze than last year and I'm sure my friend Caroline wouldn't mind some if I have too much even for the freezer. If you remember I do owe her for winning that Asian green book from the Yankee Swap way back at Christmas.

Then on the east end the garlic is already growing. I marked out three feet of space for the lettuce and one foot for some herbs. The rest is all for Asian greens and other brassicas. They always get the leftover part of the bed. Though right now the overwintered spinach takes up some of the space. It will get ripped out in spots as the Asian greens go in. When the Asian greens get bigger all the spinach willl get ripped out, but it might have bolted before then anyway.

You noticed that I haven't mentioned where the peas go yet. The peas get trellised at the back of the bed behind all the greens. The onions get the whole four foot width, but the greens only get three feet. The peas will get the whole back of the bed which is about 14' (4.3m) in length.

But first I fertilized the whole bed except the garlic section. I fertilized only lightly in the pea section at the back of the bed, but the rest are heavy feeders and will get even more side dressing as the year goes on. I'll keep the whole section in alliums or greens going continuously all the way through the fall. Or at least that is the plan.

Once the fertilizer was lightly raked in (or watered in in the spinach section), I made two rows 6" apart for the peas. I planted two types. Cascadia which takes up just over half the pea section is a snap pea that grows to about 3' tall. Blizzard is a snow pea and grows about the same height (or so the package says). I'm going to put in a trellis that is only 3' tall this year. I'll be much happier with the shorter height. For now I just pushed the T posts into the ground. I won't add the strings until the peas start to grow.

I've found this set up really gets the most out of my garden, but it is a pain. Once the peas grow I won't be able to reach into the Asian green from the back of the bed and I'll have to reach in 3' to get to them. My arms really aren't that long. I'll deal with it, but it will be a pain.

Once they were planted I watered them in. You would think the ground would be wet enough, but it really dried out on the top inch over the last few days.

This is the ground where I planted my spinach. I didn't mulch the ground and it was over saturated with water during the flood and now the top is drying out fast. Clay soil is a pain, but at least it holds nutrients and water well. I'll have to keep the top moist or the little seedlings won't be able to make it through the hard soil.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Start of the Spring Brassicas

I had my brassicas down to be seeded twice. Once for the ones that can handle the cold, and another time a week later for things that don't like to see the colder temps. Chinese cabbage for instance will bolt prematurely if they see really cold temps. They are hardy enough to withstand some freezing weather, but it is better they don't.

On Tuesday I noticed that my schedule said they should have been seeded on Saturday. The later ones, this coming Saturday. That won't happen as Saturday is my husband birthday party. Guests start to show up at 1pm and I have to kick them out at 11pm. So with prep work in the morning it is an all day affair.

But my seeding schedules are really just suggestions for me. They always get moved around because of scheduling issues. So earlier this week I had some time and decided to just do all of the brassicas at once. Oh and the chard, I started them too.

As Granny was saying the other day, the garden will be a real friendship garden this year. This batch of seedlings came from Mac, Granny, and Michelle. And yes a few commercial sources too. Here is the list of what got seeded: Yakotta-Na, Purple Mizuna, Tatsoi, Fun Jen, Komatsuna, Rubarb Chard, Argentata Chard, Piracicaba (recommended to me by Michelle and Ali), Packman, White Stem Bok Choy (from Mac), Chinese Kale (from Mac), Choy Sum (from Mac), Shanghai Bok Choy (from Mac), Ching Chang Bok Choy (from Granny), Senposai (from Michelle), Chinese Cabbage Rubicon, Small Chinese Cabbage (from Mac).

I made 1 1/2" blocks to fill a whole flat before I seeded them out. Then I found I needed about 14 more blocks. So just put them on some lids. I'll move some into the onion space, since about five blocks so far are empty. And I'll put some in with the lettuce once the seeds are up.

I know some of you have much larger operations, but this was a lot of seeding for me. I've planted way, way too much. I tend not to plan my garden out on paper. I was going to do a paper plan so you could see it all, but nope. I didn't do it again. I'm just not that kind of person I guess. I'll plan it out in the bed as I put in my peas (which ought to happen today or tomorrow). I'll put labels in the bed dividing where the space ought to be. I have a lot of space this year (my biggest bed), but I want more onions than last year so they may take up a lot of the extra space. I will end up tossing the extras (unless I can find homes for them, I haven't in the past). I figured it was better to grow too much than too little.

Then I took a look at the other seedlings. The lettuce is doing well. The early onions (the big ones) are doing great. The late seeded onions are coming up well. I planted leeks, bunching onions, and early tomatoes in the little tiny blocks to move into the 2" blocks later. Except for the King Sieg Leeks germination was spotty to non existent. I might have to make a few more blocks and multi plant some bunching onions to fill in. The early tomatoes are just a bust. I have enough leeks up to plant the small space they will get allotted, but not all the varieties I seeded will get in. Those little tiny blocks are just hard to get to germinate. The 1 1/2" ones germinate well, but the little ones dry out too fast when the heat is on in the house even covering them with plastic wrap. I need to do a better job with them when the main peppers and tomatoes get seeded in them. I might just keep the bottom part in a bit of water until I see growth. Overall the 1 1/2" blocks work better than the others for me.

A very sunny garden

And on another front, the weather has just been totally awesome here recently. We had our flood, which didn't affect us personally much. After the rains left, the sun came out and it has been about 60F since. We are getting night time temps in the 40s right now and Saturday it might hit 70F. Wow. What nice weather after such horrible weather. Mother Nature is surely playing with us this spring.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Harvest Monday - 15 March 2010

It is almost the beginning of spring and it sure feels like it. It has been raw, but above freezing and we have had 7" of rain in the last two days. It is still pouring as I write. Ick! I like the later spring where we have the flowers, not the constant showers. I hope that spinach seed I planted last week doesn't wash away. I've seen actual puddles in my garden and that is so unusual since I'm on a slight slope at the top of a hill. I'm glad I covered those seeds. And I'm really glad I decided to wait until after the rain to plant my peas. They hate being underwater and would probably rot in these conditions.

But it is Harvest Monday so I'd better get with it. I ate a bit from my stored food, but not much.. In a few weeks my frozen spinach will be gone. I hope the overwintered spinach starts pulling its weight by then.

The big news is that I spent yet more money. I put up new lights with timer and bought some new flats. So the tally gets added onto negatively again. I always hate to see the garden go into the red in the spring, but it that is the way of it. You buy things in the spring and then in the summer make up for the cost. When you count your garden dollars like this you can really see why the farmers like CSAs. They can stay in the black in the spring.


  • 2 x new flats: $1.89
  • 4" shop light with wide reflector $28.52
  • 2 x T8 cool white bulbs (which are great for seedlings and cheap) $5.88
  • Timer $11.66

Yearly Tally

  • Spent: $188.68
  • Harvested: $0.21
  • Total: $-188.47

If you would like to join Harvest Monday with a tally, a harvest or how you are using it, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Potting Up Soil Blocks

Friday morning I was busy in the laundry room where I keep my seedlings. My lettuce seedlings had their first true leaves. The roots were coming out of the bottom of their little tiny soil blocks. It was time to pot them up. I've had questions about what soil blocks are and how I use them. So I'll use my lettuce as an example.

Small, Medium, and Large

I have three soil blockers. The smallest one makes 20 blocks all 3/4"x3/4x3/4"". They are so tiny. When I use these blocks I put just one seed inside each. If they don't germinate (like you can see for some of the lettuce above), they just get tossed. They don't take up much soil so it isn't much of a waste. They are great for using every little seed you have, but they dry out very quickly. I have to water them very often compared to the bigger blocks. These little blocks pair with my largest blocker. These larger blockers make soil blocks 2"x2"x2". Mine have inserts (which you buy separately) that punch out holes for the 3/4" blocks. So once they have a true leaf, I just put the little blocks inside the bigger ones. Potting up is so easy.

The medium ones are 1 1/2"x 1 1/2"x2". These are my favorite size. The 2" size takes up a lot of room. They can be crammed five across, but it doesn't leave any space between them (I need one that is just 1/8" short of 2"), so the roots will grow together into each others blocks. This is not ideal. For some plants I'll have to place them only four across which takes up a lot of space. The 1 1/2" blocks fit six across with a lot of space between them. Perfect. The issue with these is that I always put in at least two seeds so I have to thin. Not really much of an issue. I will still use the other ones for things that need a bigger pot, like tomatoes and peppers. I'll also use them for things that I don't know the germination on or things that I don't have much seed for.

Soil blocks have a great advantage of not having transplant shock (just like newspaper pots but faster to make). I don't have to wash out pots every year. No plastic, which is always good. Nothing thrown away. Their disadvantage is that they have a learning curve and if you are too rough with the blocks they can fall apart on you. I use tongs to move mine and bottom water so the soil doesn't get washed away.

Here are my lettuce seedlings all potted up. I have a whole box of Popsicle sticks from when my kids were young. I use them to label all my blocks. In a couple of weeks they will go into the garden. I think lettuce from now on will stay in the 1 1/2" blocks and I'll save the bigger ones for things that need it. They take up way too much space. But these will be outside quickly so it isn't too much of a problem this time.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Flashlight Gardening

Yesterday was pretty busy for me, but I really did have time to plant my spinach in time. I just let time get away from me. So at 5pm with spinach seeds in my hand I was ready to go out to plant finally. It was getting cold, but there was still plenty of light.

Then the phone rings. It is my daughter. She is at Brandeis checking out the professors for grad school. She had had enough of it all, even though they were putting her up for the night. It was just too noisy and too chaotic. She loved the small group interviews though and loved the high energy physics department and thought the school was good. Anyway I put my seeds down and went to get her, because that's what a mother does.

I thought about those seeds all the way there. I started chitting them on Wednesday. They needed to get in today. There were already little roots coming out of the seeds. Two days is really the longest you can chit spinach seeds before they grow into the paper towels. I figured my daughter owed me one, so I had her hold up a flashlight while I planted the seed. It wasn't ideal. My fingers were numb before I finished. I forgot to fertilize the bed before planting - no worries since I'll side dress after they are up. And since the light was dim I think the spinach seeds were not perfectly at 3" spacings. Some had two or more seeds instead of one in a spot. But at least they got in. I hastily covered them with some remay, but without hoops since I was freezing. I just wanted a covering for this weekend since we were getting pouring rain. This will keep the soil in place if the rain get too heavy.

Next time I'll do it in the morning, instead of putting it off for later in the day. Yeah like that will happen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is It Spring Yet?

New England is currently experiencing strange spring like weather. It feels like early April more than early March. I think of March as a temperamental month. It might have a good day, but it will punish you for it by snowing on you the day after. Since Saturday our temps have risen into the 50Fs, even the high 50Fs. Our nights have been touching freezing but not dipping below. The days have been sunny and glorious. The weather will stay like this through tomorrow then it will stay warm but it will rain.

Thomas said his beds were already unfrozen by Sunday. Mine were still frozen solid. I went out and covered them with plastic and row covers. They are starting to thaw. I thought they were unfrozen yesterday, but it was just the middle bed. The upper and lower still had ice below the surface. Today I again went out.

Nope there is still ice under there. And the soil temps say it isn't quite yet time to plant peas in this bed. Too bad. I already had the peas in hand when I went outside. I guess I was overly optimistic.

Spinach bed is the one on the left this year

Spinach however can handle the cool temps and I'm sure its plastic covered bed will be totally defrosted by Friday.

So I started to chit some seeds. Two days is about the maximum that they can stay in their paper towel condo. I'll plant them out Friday morning, hopefully before the rain starts. That ought to get them started well. But the peas will have to wait until after the weekend rain storms are over.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


My light that I used last year, now has this year's seedlings under it

Last year I only had one 4' fluorescent light. It really isn't enough for me. I had to squish the seedlings. I had to ferry some from window to window throughout the day. I had to put some outside before the best time for it. I decided this year I really needed one or two more lights. So I got one more to see if it is enough. I was hoping to buy the same kind as last time. My old one is a T8 shoplight that has a nice 8" wide reflector, 10" would have been better, but 8" was good.

I couldn't find one. I found one that was gray. That wouldn't reflect much light. I found one without a reflector at all. And they had one that had a 12" reflector. That seemed a bit big but was better than too small. Sadly it as also more costly. I got it anyway. I'm going to have to add it to the tally next Monday.

New light next to the dryer

I hung the light from one of the shelves I stole from my garage. I moved it into the laundry room with the other seedlings. The laundry room seems like a good spot for it. The space is pretty big and get lots of light from all the windows.

While I was in a shopping mood, I also got another timer. This way I can grow my onions that can't see long days (my onions are long day onions and will start to bulb if they see daylight of a certain length - usually 14-16 hours) and I can grow my other crops that will benefit from long days of light - like my tomatoes. I'll probably have to put some cardboard over it so that it will not see the light from the other side of the laundry room.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Harvest Monday - 8 March 2010

black bean, leek and potato, and minestrone soup

I ate quite a bit of preserved food this last week. My husband was out on more business trips. While he was gone I decided I needed to eat some of my soups that I'd frozen. They had piled up. I didn't even know that I still had leek and potato soup made from my own potatoes and leeks. I thought I had eaten the last one long ago.

In addition I opened up another of my pickle jars. It wasn't as good as the first one. I season each jar separately and this one had a touch too much clove. It was good mind you, but not great like the last one.

Hopefully soon I'll get a real harvest. This is my overwintered spinach patch. Most of the plants made it through the winter, but not all. This weekend was glorious. We had sun and temperatures in the 50Fs (10C). I had to get out in the garden to work. Since the ground was still frozen solid I elected to clean up the spinach. I think this bed will defrost in not too long, maybe a week or so if the weather stays like this. Then the spinach can really start to grow.

If you would like to join Harvest Monday with a harvest or how you are using it, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


The start of the seedling season is well on its way. We were away for a long weekend at a little bed and breakfast over Harvest Monday, but before we left, I planted up some more seedlings. I put in eight varieties of lettuce: Red Sails, Deer Tongue, Little Gem (from Dan), Freckles (from Emily), Paris Island (from Granny), Tom Thumb (from Stefaneener), Dazzle (from Jody), and Bath Cos (from Jody). As you can see they are already up and growing well. I put one seed into each tiny 3/4" block. I wasn't perfect. As you can see Bath Cos on the right isn't coming up well, but one of its seeds is coming up from the side and another from the bottom of the dish. I have trouble seeing those little seeds. I should bring my glasses down when I sow. In a week or two I'll pot these up into 2" blocks, but I'll only take the best two of each variety.

I also put in some Evergreen White Bunching onions and five kinds of leeks. Four of them are from Miss M. I sowed ten each of the varieties she sent and 20 of King Sieg that I bought from Fedco. They are not yet up as alliums usually take a week or so to germinate. I expect to see something happening over the weekend. Some of the leek seed is older, so may not germinate, but hopefully I've planted plenty of seed so it shouldn't matter.

When I got back, I had a nice surprise. My backorder seeds from Fedco arrived. I'm not sure if the onions will have time to grow, but I seeded them anyway. They are about a month behind schedule. I seeded them in the 1 1/2" blocks with four seeds to a block.

The other onions that I planted a while back are doing well. I seeded them at the same rate and today thinned them to two per block. There were five blocks that didn't have any seedlings in them. You would think at least one of the seeds would have come up, but no. In most of the other block most of the seeds came up. I often had to thin out two seedlings to leave the two strongest.

I didn't turn the flat for quite a while and this is what it looked like last Friday. You can see one side is much less vigorous than the other. That side was the side closest to the window. The window gets cold at night and the cold inhibits their growth. My laundry room where they are located gets to about 57F at night and about 62F during the day. I'm guessing those closest to the window see even lower temps at night.

I did one more sowing today. I'm not sure if I'm really up to it or not this year, but I started it. Early tomatoes. I've done them in the past, but find them way too much work. They tend to get diseased more and don't grow as well as the tomatoes grown in the correct season. But wintersown.org sent me Siberian Tomato seeds. These are really early tomatoes. They set early, but fade quickly. I would never put them in the main garden, but in a pot might just be the ticket. I seeded four seeds into the little tiny 3/4" blocks. I'll pot up the best two and if I can bear killing one, I'll only put one in a 5 gallon bucket to grow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Get Growing in March

This is the fourth in a twelve part series for new gardeners. If you have never planted vegetables before but always wanted to, this is the series for you. Robin, who writes the blog Vegetable Matter, and I will post on the first of every month. Robin lives in Houston and I live in Boston. We will be posting about what to do in the garden that month and giving advice. So if you have always wanted that vegetable garden, but didn’t know where to start, you have no excuse. Get growing!

March finally gets us out in the garden even in the North. The beginning of March often has snow and frozen ground, but by the end of March things are usually defrosted. Snow is still possible in April and in northern New England in May, but our temperatures are moderating. Only the hardiest of plants can survive without protection in March. Two of these plants are peas and spinach. Neither can be grown as a summer crop, but they both thrive in the early spring.


Here in Southern New England, St. Patrick'S Day is often considered the time to plant peas at least if the ground has defrosted. Some years it does, and some years it doesn't. I keep checking the soil to see. Once it is defrosted you still may need to wait. Some soils get waterlogged at this time of year. A raised bed will prevent this, but if your soil is too wet, it will hurt the soil to be worked at this time of year. In addition the pea seed will be too wet and may rot in the ground. You can tell if your soil is dry enough by getting a handful of your soil and forming it into a ball. If the ball starts to fall apart when poked with your finger, you are fine, if not it is too wet. Wait until it drys out a bit more. After a while you will just get a feel for how wet the soil is but until you do test it.

Peas need a soil of at least 40°F or 4°C to germinate. If the soil is colder, this will cause the seed to take a long time to germinate and it could rot before it does. This does not mean that the soil needs to be 40°F the whole day. If the soil freezes at night you should be fine. Peas are very hardy. Just make sure the soil reaches that temperature in the daylight hours before you plant.

For more pea growing information you can see Robin's Get Growing post on peas.


Spinach only needs a temperature of 35°F or 2°C to germinate and won't germinate at all in soil that is too warm. So as soon as the soil is defrosted and dry enough you can plant.

Spinach needs a fairly fertile soil. It does well if it follows peas or beans as they increase the fertility of the soil. If your compost is very high quality (is made with the fast method and has a lot of nitrogen in it), you can get away with just that, but if you are like me and have a more carbon rich compost, you will need to fertilize before planting in addition to your inch of compost. I use an organic 5-3-3 fertilizer. But whatever you use, follow the direction for the amount on the package. Sprinkle it on the surface of the soil and either rake in (if you don't till) or turn it under.

Spinach bed about to be planted in rows

Spinach does best when planted 6" or 15cm apart in all direction. I make rows 6" apart and plant one seed every 1-3" (2.5-7cm). When the plants get big enough I thin every other one and eat the thinnings. Some people don't like this method. They like to broadcast the seed over the soil. They just throw the seed down over the surface and thin after it comes up. Either way you sow your seed, the seed needs to be covered by 1/2" or 1cm of soil and patted down.

Once you have your spinach 1/2" under ground, water the seed in well even if the ground is wet. The watering will help the seed make contact with the soil. Don't just spray it with a garden hose however, as the blast will knock the seed out of the soil. Invest in a rose for your hose that gently waters the soil, or use a watering can with a rose.

Spinach will often have germination issues. If I am planting regular seed, I put them 1" apart in the rows. However I often presoak the seed and then I plant 3" apart. This insures that almost all the seed will germinate. To presoak I put the seed between two pieces of very damp paper towels and put in a plastic bag. I leave the bag just slightly open. Enough for air to get in, but not enough to dry out the paper towel much. Then after 36 to 48 hours I plant the seed. If you wait as long as 48 hours, you will begin to see little roots starting to come out of them. Plant them right away if yo see any roots, or they could break off when they get planted. If they do break, the spinach will die.

Some people like to start the seed indoors so the germination is better. Be very careful with this method. If there is any root disturbance it will slow the plant down drastically and make the plant bolt more quickly. Spinach does not like to have its roots disturbed. If you insist on this method (which frankly I don't think is worth the effort since spinach is so fast), use something like newspaper pots or soil blocks.

Your spinach seed pack will probably tell you that spinach takes 30 days to mature. If you have very cold temps it will take longer. Don't fret. Give it time. When you harvest, pick off the outer leaves and let the inner ones regrow. The plant will bolt fairly quickly, but sometimes you can get multiple harvests. Spinach bolts when they either experience very warm weather or when the day length gets longer. In my area (about the 40th parallel), spinach will start to bolt around May 15th if only the sun were a factor. If you get hot weather it could be faster. Spinach is considered a very finicky crop.

Leaf miner damage on chard

I've never had disease issues with my spinach but in my area I get one insect pest and it isn't usually until late in its growth. Leaf miners lay small little white eggs in groups of about 3-6 on the underside of the leaves. When they hatch the larvae mine through the inside of the leaf. It makes the leaf unusable. There are four solutions. 1) Pick all the spinach before the miners come out for the year. 2) Do a search and destroy on the eggs. Just scrape the eggs off the back. This can be very time consuming if you have a lot of spinach. 3) Ignore the problem and just eat the leaves that are still good. 4) Use a row cover.

Row Cover

I use the last option for my spinach. I have some Agribon row covers that I use as soon as I plant my spinach. It does two things for me. First it keeps off those leaf miners. And second it warms up the soil and air around the spinach in the early spring. I've found the spinach is ready about a week faster with a row cover than without one.

Other post in the series

Determining your growing zone and planting peas (Vegetable Matter - December)
Planning a Garden (Daphne's Dandelions - December)
Growing Lettuce (Vegetable Matter - January)
Starting transplants indoors (Daphne's Dandelions - January)
Growing tomatoes (Vegetable Matter - February)
Compost (Daphne's Dandelions - February)
Snap Beans (Vegetable Matter - March)
Peas and Spinach (Daphne's Dandelions - March)
Eggplant (Vegetable Matter - April)
Brassicas (Broccoli, Cabbage, Asian vegetables) (Daphne's Dandelions - April)
Edamame (Vegetable Matter - May)
Tomatoes (Daphne's Dandelions - May)

Harvest Monday - 1 March2010

Now that it has been a few months into eating from my saved harvest, I think I'll do an overview of what was good and what wasn't. It seems like a pretty boring thing to read, but will be good to have in my records. I'll start with the frozen things:

  • Spinach and chard: good, 5 cups of frozen each is probably enough
  • Komatsuna: toughened up in the freezer, don't freeze again
  • Tomato Sauce: worked great, I've already used half, so need more next year
  • Salsa: better canned, I've been using store bought for fresh eating
  • Applesauce: only froze because I ran out of jars, not yet used
  • Zucchini: as usual great for bread and soup, probably don't need more next year
  • Green Beans: good, but don't need more next year as I only use in soup
  • Corn: I totally forgot I froze some and it isn't touched
  • Serranos and Jalapenos: better pickled than frozen, have just a bit too much
  • Raspberries and sorbet: I don't use the frozen berries at all, make it into sorbet instead, as it gets eaten over the summer
  • Carrots: almost out, need more next year

Then onto the canned items:

  • Applesauce:I've eaten half of what I've made since September, so I probably didn't make quite enough, but we will see
  • Raspberry jam: I'm not much of a jam eater, so probably made a bit too much
  • Rasberry jalapeno jam: not spicy enough, loses its potency over time, made about the right amount
  • Apple pie filling: we haven't been eating it much, only used one, but good, I'll get to the rest before apple season I'm sure
  • Applebutter: made way too much, half the amount next year.
  • Pickled snap peas: ick, gets mushy in canning, don't make next year
  • Pickles: fabulous, need lots more, at least 12 pints, but 18 would be good then I can give away some

And onto the pantry and refrigerator:

  • Dried Beans: way, way too little, I need to grow about 15lbs maybe and need to learn how to make a good baked bean dish. My husband love baked beans and so do I, but we both like the kind from the can. Anyone have a recipe that tastes more like canned (I know weird huh?)
  • Garlic: I seem to have planted about the right amount maybe a bit too much
  • Onions: need lots more, I ran out early
  • Carrots: need lots more
  • Cabbage: I only need two large heads, I eat it all the time, but I'm the only one and it is a lot of cabbage

So there you have it. The bottom line is that I'm doing OK except for onions, carrots and pickles. Truth be told is that I prefer to buy broccoli and have it over the winter than to constantly eat from my stores. I haven't been doing it except when my daughter comes home to visit, but when she does we have a lot of broccoli, fresh red peppers, and Tasty Tom tomatoes (which are the only tomatoes in the winter I've found worth eating).

If you would like to join Harvest Monday with a harvest or how you are using it, put your name and URL into Mr. Linky below.