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Old 02-06-11, 12:10 PM   #1
RobertSmalls
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Default RobertSmalls' 2011 Garden

My garden for 2011 will be very similar to (but more bountiful than) last year's. Last year, I planted my peas too late, my carrots too close together, and my tomatoes from abused sprouts. I'll try all those crops again, in addition to Rosemary and maybe Chives.

I'll also start three blueberry bushes, but I don't expect a harvest from them this year. I'd like to grow potatoes, but that's hard to do. Last year I said I wouldn't grow tomatoes again, but my homemade sauce turned out really well, so I'm actually going to double the number of tomato plants: 10 Roma this year.

I've added a compost bin, which is currently frozen. I'll make sure to attend the Buffalo ReUse rainwater barrel building workshop this year, which will probably be in April. I'll attach my garage's downspout to the top of the barrel, and a garden hose to the bottom.

According to the NOAA, there's a 10% chance of frost after May 6th, and a 10% chance of temperatures below 36F after May 22. So mid to late May is my target tomato transplant date. That means I need to germinate in mid to late March. Hopefully it will be warm enough in here for that.

I'm a scientist, so I'll start a few units in cold frames to see if it produces an earlier and more prolonged harvest. There's a 10% chance of temperatures below 28F after April 24th, so I need to start germinating those units on February 24th! Wow, that's early. Maybe I should germinate them earlier (e.g. next weekend), since the average temperature in my house is 55F.

It feels strange to be working on the garden now, while it's buried under a foot of snow, with little prospect of the ground thawing this month.

Would tomatoes survive a 28F night in an unheated cold frame, or is my schedule a little to aggressive?

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Old 02-06-11, 04:05 PM   #2
NeilBlanchard
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That's about a 4 degree offset -- that is probably the limit of a cold frame? You could do seedlings inside in windows, maybe?

I'm currently reading "Animal Vegetable Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, which is all about these issues. Are there gardeners in your area who can help with what varieties of what work better? Some varieties are fine with the cold, while others can go late into the end of the season. Is there a farmer's market near you?
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Old 02-06-11, 05:44 PM   #3
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Tomatoes may survive 28F but it will certainly hurt them and stunt their growth. When it gets real cold I use inefficient lights and blankets over my cold frames to keep delicates alive and the temps above freezing. It's a bit of a pain but it makes a difference. I started my tomatoes valentines day and moved them out near the end of may last year. The start was a little early for my location, they got leggy long before I could move them.
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Old 02-08-11, 04:08 PM   #4
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I've heard of people using electric soil heaters, I don't know much about them and they might cost more than what they are worth but its something that might work out with one of those plastic greenhouse things. I should plant a garden too, I missed out my chance to plant apple trees last year because I was trying to get rid of a monstrosity in my backyard sitting right where I wanted to plant the trees.

Potatoes, they seemed pretty easy growing them when I was a kid, I remember just digging a hole and dropping them in and then digging a bunch of them out of the ground later, which the labor of digging them up was a bit of work but wasn't too bad. I'd do that but getting a 10 pound bag for a few bucks and I'm set for a long time.

If you like radishes, or if you haven't had them before and like a surprise, they are easy to grow, not much different than growing carrots. If I remember right they were the first things to be ready to eat and I think peas took the longest. Grew pumpkins and sunflowers once, both were fun to grow but pumpkins took tons of space just to grow a couple of pumpkins and the sunflowers that I grew were about 8 feet tall, had gigantic seeds but they were fuzzy and were soft and wouldn't split open , I suspect they aren't the same as the ones bred for eating.
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Old 02-08-11, 08:44 PM   #5
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My garden has begun! I'm germinating some seeds I got from last year's tomatoes. I'll run trials on four populations of tomatoes. One group will be started presently in 1L pots under a cat-resistant cold frame indoors, since my cat loves to sit in pots. The second group will be started on March 13th in the compressed peat moss egg carton that I bought. Groups 1 and 2 will be moved to a cold frame outside on April 24th.

The third group of tomatoes will be in the egg cartons as well, but will never see a cold frame and will hit the dirt on the usual date of May 22nd. The control group will be 6" tall sprouts purchased from a farmer's market and planted on May 22nd. n=4 for each group, and I will cull the herd down to about 12 plants.

Potatoes: I eat around 150lbs (~$45) of Russets a year. I don't like white or red potatoes that much. If growing my own gives me a reliable supply of high-quality Russets, I'm willing to devote the effort to them. But if all I get is bitter, little potatoes, count me out.

Peas are appealing because they're one of the few crops that allows two harvests a year in Buffalo. I'll plant some of last year's Alaska Peas. However, I might switch to green beans, because it's hard to shell enough peas to make a stew.

Apples: Here's what I want: Malus domestica 'Mutsu-Crispin' Mutsu or Crispin from Grandpa's Orchard . 3-5 years from germination to bearing fruit, it's succeptibe to a few prominent diseases, and it requires average skill to grow. Am I biting off more than I can chew? Maybe I'll just plant some seeds and find out.

As far as local resources, Buffalo ReUse is a great one. I will attend their seed germinating workshop this year, in order to bounce gardening ideas off the hip urban farmers there. There are some very knowledgable people there. For a bit more science, there's the USDA Extension Office. Most counties have one, and they can do free soil testing, and give you advice about cultivating a lawn and garden. I will bring them a cross-section of my lawn for them to analyze. Maybe that will lead to me adjusting the pH or fertilizer.
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Old 02-13-11, 04:33 PM   #6
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I went out to the garden to get some soil to start my tomatoes in. Apparently, my garden is still full of life, it's just dormant for the winter.

Although the garden was buried in 18" of snow, the soil wasn't frozen, and there are plenty of worms in there. I cut a few in half with the shovel, and they did not squirm at all. But when I brought the pot of soil inside, they buried themselves again. Looks good.

I got the cold frame built, so all I'm waiting on is for the seeds to germinate.

There's a nice, hot breeze and the sound of melting snow outside. This is a nice time of year before everything turns to mud.
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Old 02-14-11, 07:38 PM   #7
NeilBlanchard
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Matt, I don't think that cutting earthworms in half is a good idea:

If you cut a worm in half does it really become 2 worms? | Answerbag
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Old 02-14-11, 08:18 PM   #8
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Tell them to stand aside while I'm shoveling, then!
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Old 02-15-11, 10:07 AM   #9
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I have 100% germination of my oxi-clean processed tomato seeds from last year. That's better than any of the 7 store-bought varieties. It's easy, too - 1tsp oxi-clean to a cup of water, soak the seeds for 1/2 hour, rinse and dry. I planted extra in case they didn't work, and now I have too many.

I tried germinating in a windowsill last year and there was not enough light. I have a 2-tube fluorescent fixture over them this year.
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Old 02-15-11, 11:37 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaleMelanesian View Post
I planted extra in case they didn't work, and now I have too many.
I do that every year in case of failure and then give the extra's away sometimes in trade usually to new gardeners to see if I can get them hooked. seeds are so cheap compared to starts it's worth it just for the good will

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