Most of us have adopted little rules for living: Don’t snack after midnight; don’t take candy from strangers; don’t date musicians; read the instruction manual.
One of my rules is not to put vegetable plants in the ground until my birthday, which is at the end of this month.
The rule corresponds with the probability that Chico will not experience another frost until after this date.
(For a very cool explanation on last frost dates and Chico-specific temperature averages: http://goo.gl/ewqTz).
Like almost all things in my life, I’ve learned caution the hard way.
Some guy with a Ph.D talked me into planting in early April. I ended up running around the yard in my raincoat, putting plastic buckets over tiny tomato plants.
Other years I waited until May, then listened to people like the professor brag about red tomatoes in June.
My solution this year will be to wait longer than some would advise and spend more money on larger plants. Bonus if the tomato branches already have green fruit when I bring them home.
Planting by seed, of course, is always preferable. You can enjoy the plants from seed to compost, and relish in your gardening prowess.
Several weeks ago, I bought a six-pack at the farmers market that contained three different types of lettuce. I’ve harvested two large bowls of salad, with more on the way.
That same week, I planted two rows of spinach seeds in the same raised bed. As you would guess, there are two spindly spinach plants.
The basil seeds planted two weeks ago are doing much better, with two rows of seedlings that look like green Star Wars fighter planes.
(For basil-growing instructions: http://goo.gl/aA36A).
If these don’t work out, I’ll buy a one-gallon basil plant for less than five bucks.
Another experiment in instant gratification was to buy a package of “live lettuce,” or “living lettuce.” This is sold at a regular grocery store, in a plastic dome, with the root ball attached. The concept is that the lettuce is “alive” and will stay fresh in your fridge.
After eating the greenery down to a stub, I planted the root ball in my raised bed. The plants survived and thrived.
Lunar rules for planting
This week, a friend excitedly asked if I had planted my garden.
I had barely nodded when she explained that she follows the Old Farmer’s Almanac, taking care to plant above-ground vegetables during the waxing phase of the moon.
Root crops, she explained, should be planted after a full moon.
I had not factored this into my last frost/birthday equations. Darn it.
Her method sounded like a delightful rule for gardening, and just as good as any of the rules I currently live by.
Because the full moon was yesterday, I’ll have almost an entire month to plant radish seeds, which are below-ground vegetables.
Also, when I buy my 14-inch tomato plants, I’ll ask the grower if they recall the phase of the moon when the seeds were planted. That should be an interesting conversation.
For my birthday, my sister has said she will cut my hair. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, http://goo.gl/W5hnR, also has moon rules for cutting your hair.
From now until May 8, a haircut will “retard growth,” and is also a good time to quit smoking, start a diet, and mow your lawn to inhibit growth, the almanac states authoritatively.
It also recommends waiting until May 2 to dig post holes.
Now you know.
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