Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super-Early Seed Planting

It's been nice and warm, seems amazing for February. Here is a screenshot from

"Tropicals" like tomatoes, chili peppers, eggplants, and basil, can't go into the ground until May, due to the risk for frost and the cool ground. I do need to measure the ground temperature. Cool-weather plants, some of which can even be winter-sown, are another matter, I think.

I've been wanting to do this project for a long time. Ning found a couple of "free-for-the-taking" wine barrels, and scarfed them up for use as planters. They've been sitting for a year or two. Today I got out the Skill-saw and cut them in halves, then drilled multiple 1-inch holes in the bottoms of each. Ning wanted to be able to move them around, so we added casters.

The main incentive was a warmer and more controlled environment for chili peppers and eggplants, which are challenging in the Maritime Pacific Northwest climate. It's still 3 months too early for those, but with unseasonably warm weather, I decided to try greens and radishes. Being above ground, South side of house, on a masonry patio, they should be much warmer. Today is 54F. The past week has been in a similar range. If it freezes, I can cover them as long as I have some warning. Freezing should not harm these plants. Weeds are growing actively, and brassicas are a lot like weeds in hardiness. The onions survived hard freeze down to 15 F in December, without damage.

Here's what we planted:

Some lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson - 40 days
Radish, Daikon Miyashige White - 60 days
Radish, French Breakfast - 28 days
Carrot, Scarlet Nantes - 65 days
Radish, Cherry Belle - 24 days
Cilantro, Slow Bolting - not listed
Mesclun, Asian Salad Greens blend, 21-45 days

Plus, I pulled a couple dozen struggling top-set onions from a garden bed, where they had been neglected, separated them, and planted individually for use as scallions.

It's always an experiment. I'll look for a sheet of plastic to cover them, keep them warmer. This is 2 of 4 half-barrels, so I can plant more in a couple of weeks.

They will probably take longer than listed. That's OK. If they are not fully developed by the time that we plant chilis and eggplants, we can harves them as 'baby vegetables' or feed them to the chickens. But given that we have about 85 days, I suspect that we'll have some garden-fresh greens before that time

I like the "controlled environment" aspect of using a prepared potting soil, raised above ground level. Less liklihood of disease problems, easier to plant, harvest, weed, thin. No getting feet muddy and tramping down the soil. Expense is an issue - it takes a lot of soil to fill the barrels. If they were not free, that is another issue. They should last a long time - I have 10-year old half-barrels that still look great and show no signs of falling apart. Yet.

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