My husband, Jeff, above, holding a winter lettuce harvest. Today is Jeff’s birthday. He is such a huge part of this blog, and though you hear about our life and business and homestead through my words here, he is behind the scenes growing food and building and creating things and making it all happen. Everything I know about gardening, I learned from him. He inspires me with the beauty he constantly creates all around him, and I consider myself blessed each and every day to be married to my best friend. Happy Birthday Jeff!
Recently I asked him if he would like to write something to share here, and this is what he had to say…..
I’ve had my own garden since I was Seven or Eight years old and living in Japan. Iraguchi, a man that did odd jobs around our house showed me how to plant some bean seeds and radishes. When I saw the plants coming up in just a few days, that was it, I was sold for life. I’ve built myself greenhouses ever since I was a kid, and I have learned a fair amount, mostly by trial and error in that time. And every year I am still learning. But now it’s Spring and people start getting the Bug to get their gardens planted. For a lot of years I did my planting by when the plants showed up in the stores…..WRONG !….Or I’d just plant my seeds as soon as it started getting nicer outside, thinking that the sooner the better, I’d have a longer cropping time. I’d maybe make little greenhouses over plants, or a dark mulch to warm the soil….and these helped…BUT, the reality is you are way better off to wait. Now the way I finally figured this out was that, in all these years of planting out early I would notice Volunteers coming up from seeds that fell to Earth from the previous years crops. I could have a foot tall tomato out there in the garden that I set out earlier, but a Volunteer that came up a month later, would very quickly out run it, and produce so much better…..I mean, No Comparison.
Now of course there are cool season crops that you can put out early, lettuce, peas, greens and cole crops can go out early…But if you try to rush Beans, squash, tomatoes or peppers….. no matter what you do to make it easier for them…… you would be better off to wait. Now generally I just go with my gut as to when to plant, but this year we are planning on supplying some of our friends with starts so I decided to do it a bit more scientifically. Now the thing about peppers and tomatoes and squash is, they don’t do all that well with diverse weather changes. Temperature variation, Light variation and water variation, makes em irritable. And when they get irritable they just kind of hunker down and don’t want to do much. So a good idea is to go online and Google average temperatures for your area, then find when the temps get up above 60 degrees (or more depending on the length of your season) ….. and plan to put your starts out then, or put your seeds in the ground. I always use a dark mulch early in the season to help warm the soil….then when it gets much hotter, I switch to a lighter one. A nice dark compost works early on, and light colored wood chips, or maybe Perlite….I’ve even used Christmas tree tinsel a few times, it reflects light up under the leaves, while cooling the soil some. It makes em Jump.
But the important thing is to check your seeds or plants to see what soil temp they like…..and wait. It might seem logical to plant out earlier to get a Bigger plant, and get it done sooner, but it doesn’t actually work out that way. Do just a little research and put them out when they would be coming up on their own, naturally….and you will have quicker, healthier and more bountiful crops. It drives me crazy when people say, “I just don’t have a green thumb”. Well guess what, it has nothing at all to do with the color of your thumb, and EVERYTHING to do with getting in the Plants groove. Think of it as you are growing the plants to make them happy, to give them the optimal life….by simply giving them what they want and need. And they will thank you by Thriving, and feeding you, or making beautiful bouquets for you… The fact is plants are extremely aware, they know when you are nervous…it makes them nervous. So garden Joyfully.