Garden Prep: Early Planting Projects

It's been warm and sunny here and we are itching to plant our garden, but alas we need to wait about six more weeks. In the mean time we are doing our garden prep. Phase One looks like this for us this year:

Seed Starting
We started some things indoors, using the mini greenhouse box method we used--and loved-- last year (see how here). This year we started tomatoes and peppers the last week of Feb., so it's been about a month.  The third week of March I started some 4 packs of marigolds and zinnias. Marigolds are know to deter bugs, so I interplant them in all the gardens, and zinnias add some color and attract bees. Our tomatoes are about 6" tall and looking good! We have planted poblano pepper seeds twice, with no luck. I think we just had old seeds. : ( It looks like we'll be buying some poblano plants come May. 

Rooting Plants
This year we are trying to root some plants. We love basil and grow a lot of it, so this year instead of planting all our basil from seed, we bought one basil plant and are rooting small cuttings of it to start lots of little plants. You can buy a basil plant anywhere, we got this one at Trader Joe's. : )

We cut lots of 3-4" pieces. Cut it right above a set of new leaf buds. This way the plant will just grow new branches from those leaves. We pinched off the largest leaves, leaving only a couple medium leaves per cutting. They seem kind of scraggly, but those little leaves will soon be big and healthy.

We put the cuttings in a jar of water for about two weeks, and just make sure the stems stay submerged. 

After a couple of weeks each stem will grow little roots out the bottom.

Once there's a good amount of roots, we transplanted each stem into a small pot of dirt. Now they are continuing to grow and they will be nice sized plants when we transplant them right into the garden in May. We will be able to harvest leaves off of any of them almost right away. Be sure to pinch off any buds at the top before they flower to keep your plants producing leaves. I'm really excited to see how big our plants get through the season, with this great head start. This method is really cost effective as well, because we now have ten healthy plants for the price of one.

We are experimenting with a few other rooting veggies as well. The green below is celery, you just cut off the bottom two inches of a bunch of celery, and instead of throwing it away you put it in a bowl of water. Within just a few days it started to grow little green stalks right out of the middle. The rest of the bin is white and orange sweet potatoes (yams). The jury is still out on this one. I had read about how to start sweet potato slips (on this website), but so far--a month later--they look almost exactly like the day I put them in, except the water keeps getting weird so I've been changing that out. One potato has a few tiny buds, so I'm holding out a little hope, but this might be a pinterest fail. I'll let you know if we have any success. 

Plant Cold Hardy Stuff
We have planted lettuce, chard, peas and beets outside already. It's supposed to snow on Friday, so we will cover these with some plastic sheeting just to be safe, but overall these are fairly cold hardy and seem to tolerate temperature swings well. It's a little bit of a gamble, but these usually work out.

We've finally learned from experience that some things just can't be started early. Squash, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, cilantro, and giant sunflowers will all go right into the ground as soon as it's officially safe (mid May). That's when we will transplant the tomatoes and peppers as well. 

That's what we're working on in the garden. Any one else getting excited to grow? Any potato tips for me?

Enjoy the sunshine!


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