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First Starts of the Year

Garth Brown |

Like any gardener, I’ve had both up and down years. I often can’t figure out why a particular crop fails or succeeds, and while I get better results every year, they are still not as consistently excellent as I would like. Onions are the exception. Even since our first summer in the garden, when our neighbor Don came over and plowed a chunk of sod for us, we’ve managed to get sacks and sacks of them.

So as touchy as early seedings are, I always feel optimism when I’m starting the onions. I use soil blocks, and I plant three or four plants in each two inch cube. This not only makes it easier to get 600 starts going, when they are planted out with each group at a much wider spacing than if they were singles, it makes it possible to cultivate between them with a hoe. I will go into more detail about the specifics next week. But today I was so focused on getting the seeds going that I didn’t think to take any pictures of the process.

I’m not as confident about them as the onions, but I’m also feeling good, if apprehensive, about the beets and early turnips I started. I’m feeling good because I’m committed to bringing them inside every night that looks to be cold. In the past I’ve left them in the greenhouse on a couple warming mats, and while this has worked well enough, cold, cloudy weather doesn’t do seedlings any favors. I’m apprehensive because I am relying on these so much more than usual. It’s easy and satisfying to start things late, since it lets you work with the weather. But as the root cellar empties the need for a new crop becomes increasingly apparent, so these had better work. (This actually isn’t very early for starts, even in this climate. But with how cold it’s been it’s hard to believe the growing season will ever arrive.)

I did already plant a few artichoke plants in pots, which I don’t expect to amount to anything, and some kale, which I do. Hopefully in a month or so I’ll be eating truly fresh veggies for the first time in four months.


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