The Island Garden
Don't start your garden seeds too soon!With the warm weather we had last week and all the new seed catalogs it's awfully tempting to start planting right now and get ready for an early spring. But as the TV ad says, "Wait! There's more!"
Winter that is, more winter to come, even though it may not seem so right now. Only if you have a greenhouse should you even think about starting seeds now. Which leads right into my commercial: my new book "How to Build a Greenhouse" is on sale at Jamestown Hardware. If you pick one up you'll be helping a local gardener.
With all the seed catalogs (my pile is six inches high and growing after each mail delivery), what should you order? I am a great believer in growing locally to save having to buy expensive California vegetables , which are increasing in price now that oil hovers around $100 per barrel, so I like to grow just about every vegetable and fruit I can. For the last two years I have grown the best onions ever.
Having commented on the price of oil, I buy onions from Dixondale Farms in Texas and thoroughly recommend them. The sets come by mail and work out to be about $4 per bunch. Each bunch has about 60 onions. We are still eating the ones I grew last year, which were stored in the cool basement and I've made onion soup, onion pizza, roasted onions, stews with onions, and used them in just about every dish I could think of. You can check them out online at www.dixondalefarms.com.
For potatoes, I go wither to Domina's Agway in Portsmouth, or order from Ronnigers online at www.ronnigers.com. Ronnigers has a variety of fingerling potatoes that are not often seen around here and are delicious to eat in salads. I like to grow a variety of potatoes, some early season, some mid- and some late-season to ensure a good crop all summer long.
As for other vegetable seeds, I generally start artichokes right now. The plants need to be fooled into thinking they've survived a winter so I like to put them into the cold greenhouse in mid-March. That way they get about six weeks of cold weather and generally produce artichokes around the third week of June. As a fail-safe, I have last year's plants in a warm green bed and start feeding them in late March. The older plants generally produce artichokes earlier than the new plants. I also start lettuce, spinach, and Chinese greens around the end of February in the cold greenhouse. I find that this gives me harvestable greens about the beginning of April.
Peppers and eggplants also get started around the end of January because they take a long time to germinate. These plants get potted up in quart juice cartons and stay in the warm greenhouse until mid-May. I like to grow a variety of sweet, Italian, and hot peppers and grow them in the cool greenhouse, which in summer gets quite warm.
Tomatoes get started between the middle of March and the first of April - you hear that Scott! Scott, at the hardware store, has in previous years started tomatoes way too early and gets big straggly plants that don't do well.
Broccoli, cabbage, and other brassicas need only be started around the middle of April unless you have a greenhouse or cold frame. Similarly, celery, carrots, beets, and other root crops should be started after the ground has warmed up. No matter what you grow, now is the time to be thinking about what seeds to buy and where they will all fit in your vegetable garden. Also, you should make a map of where things grew last year, so that you can rotate crops and plan out where you will grow your vegetables this year.