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

Rushing into spring

Lettuce and quick hoopsI know it seems a little nuts to mow and sprinkle in March.  My notes tell me that we started mowing during the second week of April then watered the garden for the first time during the third week of April in 2010, with both spring activities running a week or two later than that in 2011.

But gardeners have to listen to the weather, and our garden is telling me to get a move on and pretend this is mid April.  I'm rushing out the remaining spring crops --- every cool weather vegetable except broccoli is in its final spot in the garden and I'll be putting out the broccoli next week.  In fact, the mule garden is just about full, which is why I felt it was worthwhile to hook up the irrigation system instead of hand watering.

Meanwhile, I'm doing crazy things like starting tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelons Bolting kaleunder quick hoops --- yes, in March.  The ground is warm enough for the seeds to sprout, and I figure if the heat wave continues, our spring crops won't last as long as usual, so we'll need early summer crops to replace them.  This is quite a gamble, but I'll only lose a few cents' worth of seeds if a late frost is hard enough to get through the row cover fabric.

Strawberry flower

Frost-nipped kiwi leavesLuckily, this week's frost didn't do much damage.  As you can see from the yellow center of this strawberry flower, we might be getting an extra early crop despite the frost.  This strawberry was the lone indicator I left uncovered as a gauge of the air temperature, which I'm guessing only dropped to about 31.  (Strawberry flowers turn black in the center if damaged by the frost, which happens at 30 degrees Fahrenheit.)

As I suspected, the kiwi was the most tender, showing some frost-nipped leaves on the lower cordon.  It seems like the cold air only lingered in the foot closest to the ground, though, since higher leaves are still vibrantly green.  I wonder if training a hardy kiwi to grow taller would give it some frost protection?

Young kiwi leaves

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock happy with POOP-free water and something to peck at.

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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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We are putting out our garden early this year as well. last year I didn't mow until late in April, I will be mowing for the second time in 2012 this weekend. Crazy.

On a non-related topic, have you two considered recording video to share here via YouTube in addition to what you currently do?

Comment by Heath Sat Mar 31 09:27:15 2012
Heath --- We were on a video kick a few years ago, but it just takes so long to make a good video! I think the real reason we don't do it, though, is because we never found a good linux video editor, and I have an aversion to going over to the windows side of my laptop....
Comment by anna Sat Mar 31 10:37:45 2012

"The ground is warm enough for the seeds to sprout,..."

Can I ask what is the normal length of time the ground needs to be at a certain temperatur eto be considered ready to support seeds?

Comment by J Sat Mar 31 17:21:37 2012

That's a good question. My guess would be, the average germination time for that seed. Some seeds seem to pop open much faster than others so tomatoes (for example) would need the soil to stay warm for a shorter length of time than peppers.

That said, with warm season crops, you really don't want seedlings to get stunted by cool weather even if it doesn't frost. So if I saw lows beneath the mid forties on the ten day forecast, I wouldn't try anything so crazy as planting tomatoes in quick hoops in March.

Comment by anna Sat Mar 31 19:04:12 2012

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