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Soil Temperature – It Matters!

April 16th, 2014

In the spring, many of us are excited to get planting and we see the phrase “as soon as soil can be worked” on our seed packet and plant things a little too early. Even though the soil can be worked, it’s cold, this causes delayed germination and in some cases seeds will rot in the ground before sprouting. It pays to wait an extra week before planting things like beets and peas. ¬†Beets in particular seem to be very picky about soil temperature.
planting peas 2
Lettuce can be sown early, it will take longer to germinate than it does in slightly warmer temps, but the germination rates aren’t as drastically reduced as they are for other types of seeds since they’re so close to the surface. In most cases waiting a week won’t put you any farther behind as far as harvest scheduled go, since the seeds often take longer to germinate they end up coming up at the same time anyways, you just have less risk of seed damage or birds eating the seeds if you wait.
arugula seedlings
In my 5×5 Challenge Garden out front the arugula seeds have started to germinate. None of the lettuces have yet. It’s been a week since I sowed the seeds, the ones I planted in a seed flat indoors germinated in 2-3 days. This shows you how soil temperature affects seed germination.

Have you noticed differing germination rates of some things in the spring when the soil is cold? 

Plant for Multiple Harvests

April 9th, 2014

This week my 5×5 Challenge Garden finally thawed out enough to plants a few things. It doesn’t take long for the soil to become workable after the snow melts. As soon as you can run a rake through the top of the soil you can plant a few things that like cool soil.
5x5 garden 1
There are a wide variety of things that can be planted in that space between the first thawing of the soil in spring and the warm summer months. You can’t plant tomatoes, corn, peppers or heat loving crops right now. Even broccoli and other cool loving crops risk early bolt if they experience too much cold this time of year. You don’t want to let your soil simply go fallow though, some quick crops are what you need so you can enjoy delicious food from your garden while you wait for summer to arrive. A few great options for quick crops: cilantro, lettuce, spinach, mustard, arugula and other greens. My garden was divided into four squares and I planted four different greens. These should germinate fairly quickly in this cool weather and be ready for harvest before the end of May when it’s time to plant tomatoes.
raised bed 2
Before I planted my lettuces I added a generous helping of compost on top of the soil. I don’t bother working it in as some people do, I find that the earthworms do a fine job of doing that for me. I don’t like to work the soil if I don’t have to. As you can see, the soil level had settled a bit and my raised bed was only about half full. After adding 2-3 inches of compost it’s getting better. Before I plant my warm season crops I’ll add another layer of compost and hopefully it will be nearly full by then.
5x5 garden 2
You can be I’ll be keeping an eagle eye on this garden watching for any signs of life. I can’t wait to see how it grows this coming season.

What’s your favorite cool season vegetable?

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Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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