Starting the veg garden early this year

Feb Gardening

In the midst of wedding planning and the Super Bowl this weekend, I got out my Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook to begin planning my garden. I wanted to start early to use a bunch seeds I have stashed in a drawer. You may remember I had grand plans of having a winter garden this season. Well, it never happened so I am more than ready to begin prepping for Spring.

Feb Gardening

The great thing about this particular planner is after figuring out your last frost date, you have a customized week-by-week task list. I think my garden would benefit greatly by me being a little more organized so here’s hoping I stay up on it!

Feb Gardening

Of course, no planner is perfect. My biggest issue with this one is how it transitions from Summer to Fall. Sacramento had a really long growing season so I can’t begin cleaning out my garden for winter when I still have plants producing veggies. So I’ll ignore the planner for a couple of months in late Summer. (Maybe I’ll stick it in the same drawer as my seeds. I’ve done a good job ignoring them the last couple years!) Then when the weather cools, I can just pick up where I left off to prep the garden for winter.

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To start indoors

Feb Gardening

Later this week I plan on starting my tomato and pepper seeds inside. I have an indoor seed starting kit like this with a heating pad I’ll set up near a window. I’ve picked a big heirloom variety and a cherry tomato to start with. Depending on how the seeds do, I may just plan these or add another variety.

Our orange bell pepper did so well last year, I’m going to try this Chinese Giant peppers. This year, I want to make a bunch of homemade salsa, so I am also planting Serrano Chili seeds. I usually am too late to try growing hot peppers so this will be a fun challenge.

To start in the raised beds

Feb Gardening

Outside, I want to get some vegetables started in the raised beds as well. It’s going to be a little experiment to see how well the side garden does in the colder months. My test subjects are carrots, lettuce, spinach, snow peas and onions.

To start in the front pots

Feb Gardening

Our front porch pots are looking super sad these days. My plan is to add some color with these Windowbox Sweet Peas, Dill and Cat Grass. I’ve tried growing sweet peas before, but I’ve never actually had a bloom.

I am excited to see what actual grows. I’ll report back when I have some seedling sightings. Anyone else working on their garden plans? I’d love to hear about it.

Update on the garden (2012)

Veg Garden
Overall, I think my veggie garden did pretty well this summer. I am still picking bunches of basil and tomatoes of the vine due to our long growing season. It’s making me a little spoiled. There’s nothing like a freshly picked tomato. Yum.

Here’s a recap of what I planted and how everything did. So much goes into a successful garden that its hard to know exactly why certain plants prosper and others fail, but here’s my best shot at an explanation.

In the raised beds

Roma Tomato
With the drip system installed I saw my plants thrive, but due to the location I got quite a few white flies. I want to look into natural ways I can prevent their infestation next year because soapy water really didn’t work well this season. 

Yellow Pear Tomato - died halfway through the season due to heat/fungus.

Thai Basil - this guy is still going. I love the purple flowers and will grow it next year. I am also partial to the elongated thin leaf. I reach for this variety over the other ones I planted for cooking.

Globe Spicy Basil - also a winner. It has pale green and white flowers so not as dramatic as the thai, but I love the flavor of it.

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Black Beauty Zucchini - we had some white flies on the zucchini, but it still produced a lot of zuke.

Chinese Eggplant -  I got quite a few eggplants from this plant, but then halfway through the season the eggplants would grow but not ripen. Not sure the reason for this, but intend to do some research before next year.

Mystery Medium Tomatoes - Well,  my mystery tomato plant I received from my neighbor turned out to be a Roma variety. The one I planted in the raised bed is still going strong, but it didn’t start producing until August.

Bull’s Blood and Golden Beets – The beets did really well except I planted them too close together. Lesson learned – I’ll spread them out next time.

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Orange Bell Pepper - This guy was a surprise. He’s produced a bunch of pepper and still has a few on the plant. I had forgotten how long it takes for the peppers to ripen though. Next year I need to plant the bell pepper earlier.

Pink Punch and Crimson Crunch Radishes – I really liked the pink and crimson radishes. We used them in salads all summer long. Only change I would make would be replanting them more often since they grow so fast.

Salad Leaf Basil - This basil variety produced huge leaves perfect for salads. I think I would only plant one or two of these next year – five was way to many.

Bush Beans - these guys did well but I am not sure if I would plant them again. They are rather small and you don’t get very many beans.

Scallions – the scallions never came up from the seeds I planted unfortunately.

Italian Arugula – This arugula took off fast. I couldn’t keep up with it. Mature arugula can be an overpowering taste so next time I need to harvest when it much smaller.

Red Leaf Lettuce – This lettuce was really pretty, but didn’t do to well with the heat.

In the backyard pots

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Overall I sucked at watering these plants on a consistent basis and it showed. If I do pots again, I really need to figure out a drip system or get into a better habit watering these guys. 

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Indigo Rose Tomato – This is the new variety developed by my uncle’s friends at OSU. It’s a purple tomato. It didn’t mind my watering schedule and I would plant it again for sure. The tomatoes were small to medium size and a major conversation starter!

Mystery Medium Tomatoes (given to me by a neighbor) – Again the mystery plant turned out to be a Roma. The one I planted in the backyard pot developed blossom end rot due to my manual watering so I just took out the plant.

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Bush Hybrid Cucumber – I got two cucumbers from the plant. It never really took off and I am not sure if that was due to my watering or just the plant.

Chinese Eggplant -  The eggplant I planted in the backyard pots didn’t ever do much except produce one unripe eggplant.

Fall & Winter Garden

Fall & Winter 2012 Veggie Line up

Now on to the new crop. I’ve been collecting seeds to plant for the Fall & Winter season the last few weeks. This is all a big experiment in gardening over the cold months for me. I am going to start the seeds all inside then plant them in the raised beds. They should have some protection from frost on the side of the house.

Here’s my lineup based on this online calendar I found:

I am excited to get started. I love winter greens and can’t wait to produce my own in our garden.