The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

May Day planting

May Day planting

May Day is my traditional planting of the first big round of summer crops. Our frost-free date isn't until May 15, but it takes seeds a few days to come up and late frosts are usually quite mild. As a result, a bit of row cover fabric is generally sufficient protection for the tender-but-not-excessively-tender crops like green beans, sweet corn, and summer squash. (We save true tenderfoots like sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and okra for after the frost-free date, when I plant a second round of the early birds too.)

Actually, the first three weeks of April were so warm this year that I started thinking I might get away with presprouting some of this first set of summer seeds. So the green beans and (perhaps not the brightest idea) the experimental arava melons went into the ground as seedlings just barely starting to poke their cotyledons above the soil surface. Only time will tell whether I regret this move, or whether pre-sprouting gives me crops a week or two earlier than their seed-started bedmates.

Planting into the cold frame

Meanwhile, I'm now regretting having jumped the gun by starting my tomatoes inside during the last week of February. The plants thrived for quite a while, but they really needed more space and more sun by early April. I suspect that's why a damping-off fungus leapt from a tray of zinnia seedlings into the tomatoes and began to wreak havoc once warm weather hit. I've never seen such mature plants succumb to damping off, but something caused about half of my tomatoes to decline and several to outright kick the bucket.

I thought I didn't have any more seeds of the disease-resistant varieties I'm trying out this year, but last weekend I realized that I did, in fact, have quite a few more seeds in my storage box. So I started another flat of seedlings who will be barely big enough to go into the ground at our frost-free date. In the meantime, I also set out three of my best-looking tomato plants in the cold frame in front of the trailer. I don't like to plant tomatoes outside before frost is definitely in the rear-view mirror, but by sinking the plants pretty far into the soil, I should still be able to close the cold-frame lid for the next two weeks if frost comes to call one more time.

(Okay, yes, I snuck two borage plants and a row of zinnias into the front of the cold frame as well. Here's hoping I don't regret planting so close to the tomatoes, but I can always weed the flowers out!)

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Everything I've read says to only plant bean seeds in the ground - something about the roots don't like to be disturbed when transplanting? Is this incorrect?
Comment by NaYan Sat May 2 09:12:37 2015

NaYan --- In general, I'm not a fan of transplanting fast growers like cucurbits and beans. I figure they put out so much growth so quickly that the transplant shock will set you as far back as if you'd just started with seed.

But I think presprouting might be a little different, if you plant when there's only a radical, not a real root, in the ground. If there aren't root hairs yet, I would think there wouldn't be any transplant shock or damage to the root.

Only time will tell, though. I figure half of one bed isn't a big deal even if it's a total dud since I replant every two weeks during the summer....

Comment by anna Sat May 2 20:19:35 2015
Thanks for the response and advising about the difference between pre-sprouting radical and actual root. I didn't realize that there was a difference. So today I learned something new. :)
Comment by NaYan Mon May 4 08:38:47 2015

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