2018 Garden: Off to a Bad Start with Tomato Seedlings & Spinach14. May 2018
Like many gardeners, the most exciting part of planning a garden is picking out which new heirloom seeds to plant. It's easy to go overboard selecting heirloom seeds like I did this year. I started my seedlings the same time that I normally do, except I had a major setback. If you follow me on Instagram, you got daily updates on my tomato situation. It was tragic and frustrating for sure! We had a mouse in our house who helped himself to my seedlings. He mowed down a dozen tomatoes, all my herbs, and most of my flowers. I replanted tomatoes 3 times, sigh.
I constructed a ridiculous prison wall around my plants that MacGyver would laugh at. I never did get around to making a mouse trap out of paper clips and gum wrappers. But alas, the mouse was finally eradicated from our home. All this replanting set my plants back a few weeks. My tomatoes are about a third of the size they should be this time of the season. Typical frost-free planting times for my zone is May 15. So I may hold off on planting tomatoes for another week or so.
My new carrot container is doing well so far. My past blog post had a homemade potting soil recipe for planting carrots in containers. There are two things I’m slightly nervous about though. One is that I added a bucket of sand to the soil mix. Loamy, sandy soil is good for growing long carrots, but it does make the soil heavier. So my giant Christmas tree container is not moveable as I had hoped. I’m strong enough that I can drag it across my porch, but the plastic walls bulge out and the soil collapses. So it will stay put for now. Perhaps when I plant fall carrots, I’ll siphon some of the soil mix out and replace with more peat moss.
I’m also a little nervous about the drainage in my carrot container. I drilled plenty of drainage holes on the bottom. But then I lined the bottom of the crate with newspapers. I did this to prevent soil from leaking out onto the deck. Since the crate is clear, I can see a little water sitting in the bottom of the crate. So I’m hoping that it’s still draining well enough. If the soil is too moist, carrots may rot. But if there’s only water in the very bottom of the container, I think it will be ok. At least it'll be ok for a little while.
I planted a handful of spinach seeds at the end of my carrot crate too. Spinach is one of those plants that's eluded me during my entire time as a gardener. I've never been able to get it to germinate. So I planted some at the end of my new carrot container, expecting the usual. So I'm pretty stoked to see it actually came up!! Of course I planted it close together. One, I didn’t think it would germinate. But, two, I figured I could harvest young leaves if it did come up. I’ve never been one to follow plant spacing guidelines any way. There are definitely benefits to properly spacing certain veggies. But my lettuce beds are always packed, and I rarely have issues with that.
A few times now I’ve found several spinach plants snipped at the base. The plants were wilted and dead when I found them. Another gardener suggested it may be the work of a cutworm. I haven’t seen any worms or insects yet, so I’ll keep my eyes on the spinach. And of course I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this damage doesn’t happen again. After trying and failing to germinate spinach for a decade, this has been a frustrating turn of events. Stinking’ bugs!
Last fall I planted garlic for the first time. I put in 3 varieties: Silver Rose, Nootka Rose, and Inchellum Red Soft Neck. So far they look great other than a few minor yellow spots on the leaves. From what I’ve read, minor yellowing shouldn’t be an issue. If there was more yellow, it could be from over watering, under watering, nitrogen deficiency, or disease. I topped the soil with used coffee grounds to boost the nitrogen a little if needed. We’re getting plenty of water here now, so I don’t think this is an issue. I still have layers of mulched leaves on the soil to help retain moisture as well. Once the garlic scapes come up, I’ll cut them off which will help the bulbs grow larger. I imagine I’ll feel the same way harvesting garlic as I do carrots. I’ll anxiously await the treasure (or trash) I’ll pull up. I guess that’s what you deal with when planting root veggies!
My lettuce is coming along well. Lettuce rarely fails in my garden beds. It proves to be one of the easiest things to grow for me. I have a few new varieties this year including an iceberg head lettuce. I’ve never grown a head lettuce before. The cool thing about leaf lettuce is that I can harvest individual leaves as needed. So I may not be patient enough to wait on a head lettuce. We’ll see. I need to thin out my lettuce beds next.
Of course there is ONE problem with my lettuce, even though I just said it never fails in my garden. We had a raccoon squish his fat butt under our fence and slide through the emerging lettuce. So a handful of greens were damaged. The kale got the worst of it, which is fine according to my husband, a certified kale hater. I honestly only grow kale for our dog Tuna Fish Joe. He loves kale. Seriously, he LOVES kale.
I decided to hook our tiny electric fence back up to help with varmints. It was unhooked the past two years because Tuna was shocked by it. The fence only puts out a tiny zap to scare animals. Well Tuna was so scared that he wouldn’t go into the back yard for a week. So the fence was unplugged, no regrets. Doggos are more important than tomatoes. Eventually our dog learned to love the backyard again since the threat of being zapped was no more. I’m hoping he doesn’t get zapped this year. I’ve been turning it off when he’s in the backyard. I’ve never been overly sure that this electric fence works or not. Squirrels still run across our wooden fence and catapult themselves from tree branches. I think it’s easy enough for them to still bypass the electric fence. The fence may be more effective against raccoons and groundhogs than squirrels in our yard. We’ve already seen both of those nuisance pests in our yard this year. So perhaps the fence will help some. I did a review of this electric fence years ago on a past blog post. This fence wasn't the only pest control I tried of course. I've come to realize that you win some and you lose some (tomatoes, that is)!
Oh, and I was bound and determined to grow sweet potatoes this year. Well, apparently that’s not going to happen. I waited a little too long to start sweet potato slips. My original plan was to start slips in a mason jar of water. But then I came across this tutorial for starting slips in soil. The blogger noted that this was the BEST method for started slips. She would never go back to the mason jar method since slips grow much faster this way. By partially burying a sweet potato in soil and setting it on a heat mat, slips would grow in about two weeks. Well, MY slips didn’t start even after five weeks. And not only that, but my sweet potato has started to rot. I kept the soil moist, but it must’ve been too moist. Next year I’ll try again with the tried-and-true method.