Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Seedling Progress

The weather has been variable and it is chilly and breezy, more like March than late April weather. It has also been quite dry but still cloudy, and starting the garden is going to be difficult until the pump man re-installs the foot valves removed for the winter. I have not done anything in the garden yet except visit a few times, but I need to get going really, really soon.

As an example, the kales above are just about ready to be set out in the garden. I will have a single brassica row for the kale, broccoli, collards, and cabbages. Putting them in one row will allow me to cover them with row cover on hoops to keep the flea beetles and cabbage caterpillars at bay. From left: Red Ursa, Nash's Green, and Nero di Toscana.

Most of the broccolis are also ready to go. From left: Spigariello liscia, Blue Wind, and Atlantis. I am particularly impressed by the size and vigor of Atlantis and have high hopes for it.

The cabbages are ready as well. Clockwise from upper left: Golden Acre cabbage, Flash collards, Green Wave mustard, and Minuet Napa cabbage. The Green Wave mustard is getting impatient and starting to bolt. I may just re-seed it in place. The Minuet cabbage seedlings, new this year,  look a little strange for a Napa. The leaves are serrated on the edge and a bit fuzzy. I may start some Soloist as a backup.

The kohlrabis are doing well and are ready to go. These will get planted in the raised beds. Again, I have to plan the bed assignments so I can group plants that need covering together. Flea beetles are a big menace but the caterpillars seem less likely to attack these smaller plants. Top row is Azur Star and the bottom row is Winner.

Lettuces are also ready. Clockwise from upper left: Green Ice, Red Sails, and Buttercrunch, The fourth flat has escarole in the top row and endive in the bottom. I decided I was planting too may of them and didn't use them all before they bolted. So this year, three of each to start. The three lettuces above will go into my City Picker self-watering container on the deck, for easy harvesting without driving to the garden. I have also started seeds for Midnight Ruffles, Winter Density Romaine, and Webb's Wonderful crisphead which will go into my raised beds at the community garden.

I have shown the good and the bad, so now for the ugly. Above are pictured my successes with the solanums this year. The peppers clockwise from upper left: Revolution, Jimmy Nardello, Hungarian Paprika, and Lemon Drop. The sole tomato flat is Juliet. The rest of my tomatoes and peppers either failed to emerge (even after pre-sprouting) or I killed them by failing to notice a flat or two under the humidity dome had dried out. Just takes one oversight to wipe out weeks of effort.

I am happy with what I do have. Revolution and Jimmy Nardello are must have peppers for me. And how can I not be happy that I managed to sprout and grow those beautiful Lemon Drop plants after swearing off baccatam peppers. The best of those will go in containers to be brought inside for the winter to see if I can get some to ripen. And I have three (maybe four) Hungarian Paprika plants to play with again. Carmen completely failed to germinate from fresh seed, so that is puzzling and disappointing, but I may be able to buy them locally. The Super Shepherd peppers germinated but I managed to let their flat dry out and kill them. If I can find Carmen I will just substitute them for the Super Shepherd, which were just an experiment.

The tomato situation is a somewhat bigger disaster, since none of the tomatoes I was planning to grow are available locally. I did push some new seeds into the cells in the flats and some of them are starting to emerge now, so I may recover partially. After all, it is still 5 weeks or more to setting out.The Chinese gentleman in our community garden direct seeds his tomato plants and they eventually catch up with everyone's transplants. So not all is lost.

Finally, just to add additional pressure to get the garden ready, my onion plants arrived from Dixondale Farms last week and are being kept cool in the basement. These are Copra yellow storage onions and Red Wing red storage onion. They are huge and beautiful, better than anything I can grow. The one disadvantage is they are dormant, which makes it possible to store and ship them. I have found it takes up to a month before they break dormancy and resume growth. I suspect a well grown onion start might compete, being actively growing when it is set out in the garden. Anyway, the race is on to get these in the garden since day length is what it is all about, and how much foliage they can add before the summer solstice starts to shorten days up here in the northern latitudes.


  1. Wow, that Atlantis broccoli really is big compared to the others. I'm growing the Spigariello liscia again this year too. We will have to compare notes. I'd say overall those brassicas look excellent, much bigger than mine when I set them out.

  2. Your brassica, pepper and lettuce seedlings look huge! We had another long cold snap that seemed to have decimated the insect population, I haven't seen any flea beetle activity or mosquitoes buzzing around.

    That's really too bad about your tomatoes and other peppers. I'm sure you still have time for them to catch up, 5 weeks is a long ways off.

  3. Your seedlings look absolutely amazing! I've set out some of my brassicas such as kale and collards, with the broccoli following this week, although mine don't look anywhere near as large as yours - very jealous! I've always grouped brassicas together in a bed and it is a real time and hassle saver when it comes to netting, that's for sure. This year, I've also remembered to place my collards on one of the edges of the bed so that I can net them separately once they get too tall for the regular hoops.

    Ugh...so sad about the tomatoes and peppers. Last year I had a few peppers and/or tomatoes that didn't come up either after sowing sprouted seeds. This time round, I'm having a bit of a hard time with two tomato varieties as well and am trying to get some more seeds going for them. I tweaked how I did my sowing this year and hopefully this will save me if my 2nd try fails. When I pre-sprout the seeds, I know that I only need a certain amount for that variety but I always pre-germinate a few extra. Once they started to germinate, I sowed one sprouted seed in each cell until I had the required # for that variety. But instead of throwing away the extras, which is what I did in the past, I plopped them all into the last cell I sowed...just in case. So if I still don't get germination from my 2nd round of seeds, I have a few of those "extras" that I can use in their place.

  4. Ooh, too bad about the tomatoes. Last year I killed an entire flat of 36 pepper plants because I let the peat pellets dry out. Certainly the ones you still have look wonderful.

    I cannot even imagine the concept of direct sowing tomato plants. I start mine very early because I have such a short season - they have to be quite large before they even get set out to get much of a harvest.

    And yes, those onion plants look fantastic. I've actually never seen any so large and did not know they ship them dormant - I've always just grown from sets though not very successfully.


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