Tag Archives: spring planting

Gardening Season Here Again

Seven inches of snow just melted. Temperatures were below zero. Still, gardening season is here again.

In some ways the season never ends. Seed catalogs and orders occupy January. I grow mostly the same vegetables, same varieties every year. However, there are so many other things in the catalogs, something new is added possibly for only that year or maybe a permanent addition.

plastic over raised bed lengthens gardening season
Winter and spring are windy times. This year I’m trying a tie down system to keep the plastic over the raised garden bed from being blown apart. Baling twine is looped on one hook inserted between the rocks, tossed over the plastic and secured to a hook on the other side. Twine going over the front and back are secured to the two heavy pipes. The plastic is staying in place. It is difficult to get inside to plant and to water. It does work better than laying pieces of cattle panel onto the plastic.

February begins gardening season for me. My raised bed is again operational. It’s full of dirt waiting to grow vegetables.

Isn’t February too cold?

The plastic draped over the raised bed turns it into an unheated greenhouse. The air inside on a sunny day reaches summer temperatures. The rocks hold the heat for some of the night.

Spinach is supposed to go in about Valentine’s Day here in the Ozarks. I’m not too enthusiastic about working outside in snow and cold. I waited.

raised bed lengthens gardening season
The metal liner is working well for keeping the soil inside the raised garden bed. The plastic was pulled away for several rains to soak the dirt. Now the spinach seeds are in and the problem will be keeping the dirt moist as the raised bed does dry out quickly.

Now the ground is clear. The sky has been clear for a few days. My spinach seeds are planted.

This year I’m trying a new variety, Noble, is addition to the Bloomsdale Longstanding. The bed is eight feet long and I put in a double four foot row of each.

Spinach likes cool to cold temperatures. If it isn’t started early here in the Ozarks, it bolts as soon as it comes up. And the seeds will germinate in forty degrees.

My next challenge will be keeping the rows watered. The plastic does a great job protecting the raised bed, but it is difficult to open up. I keep the plastic tied down because of the wind.

What’s next?

Snow peas and sugar snap peas go in next week. Greens go in the next week. Potatoes go in in mid March. Tomato and pepper seeds get started in the house the end of March. Gardening season is heating up.

As usual, I’m not ready. The pea trellises aren’t up yet. The tomato cages aren’t up. The weeds are up. I’ll just pretend I am ready and go from there.

Science investigations and lots of pumpkin fun is in “The Pumpkin Project“.

Planting Potatoes My Way

A friend was wishing she could grow potatoes, but couldn’t dig and hill them. I explained about planting potatoes my way.

Years ago, when I started teaching full time, I spent a weekend planting potatoes the old way. Dig a trench. Put in the potatoes. Cover them. Come back to pull more dirt over the new plants. Eventually dirt is hilled up around the plants.

planting potatoes my way requires lots of mulch
This year I have lots of loose mulch thanks to my picky goats. Other years I have purchased straw or had old, moldy hay. These bales split into flakes. I lay these out and plant along the joints between flakes. Loose mulch is harder to plant through.

My potatoes had their trench. They got covered. And I didn’t have time to come back. I had lesson plans and papers from six different science classes to take care of.

The giant ragweed moved in towering eight feet over those poor potato plants. When I tried to harvest the nubbins of potatoes, I used a saw to cut the ragweed down.

Phooey.

trench burrowed through mulch for planting potatoes my way
I used two methods to deal with the loose mulch. First I created a trench down to the dirt to put the potatoes in. The second method was to set the potatoes out on top of the mulch to arrange them. Then I burrowed down a hole to the dirt and put the potato in. The second method was much faster and easier.

The next year I made shallow trenches, maybe half an inch deep as otherwise the potatoes would meander over the plot. Each seed potato was set out at intervals along the trenches. Mulch hay was piled up over the potatoes with tiny wells above each one.

The potatoes grew. The giant ragweed didn’t. Well, a couple tried and were pulled up.

arranging the potatoes
I tend to plant a bit close together with rows far apart. I also just set them out without measuring, only what looks right. To date the potato plants haven’t complained. They seem to find the garden soil rich enough to ignore my inept arranging.

Harvest time came. I shifted off the last of the mulch and picked up the potatoes.

From then on, over twenty years now, planting potatoes my way has seen some adjustments. The basics remain the same.

1) Set up the rows.

2) Set out the seed potatoes.

3) Cover the potatoes with mulch.

4) Add more mulch as needed to keep it six inches deep.

5) Pull the few weeds that insist on growing.

6) Roll back the mulch and pick up the potatoes at harvest.

Planting potatoes my way does mean smaller potatoes. Of course Yukon gold potatoes are smaller anyway. Mine are a medium size which is fine for us.

planting potatoes my way works for me
The thing about mulch hay is its tendency to tangle up into almost impenetrable mats. Potatoes sprouts can force their way up, but leaving a channel makes life much easier. Besides, I can spread the mulch apart and check on the sprouts when impatience gets too insistent.

Mulch has advantages. Fewer weeds. No digging. Enriches the soil. Holds in moisture during dry spells. Keeps the ground cooler during hot spells.

Mulch does have problems. It usually comes with a seed load. It must be added to as it sinks over the season. It keeps the ground cold in the early spring. It can get water logged.

Planting potatoes my way works well for me here in the Ozarks. It isn’t perfect, but nothing about gardening is.