Last year at this time I was planting bulbs, which most folks would agree is way too late.
This week, I’m talking about planting tomatoes, which many folks would consider too early.
Within reason, the time to plant things is when you have the time and inclination.
Nature doesn’t follow a calender. For example, I already spotted my first daffodil bloom in Paradise.
Just to confirm I’m not crazy, I talked tomatoes with Maya, a volunteer through the Butte County Master Gardener Program.
These patient people answer questions (for free), 538-7201, Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:45-11:45 a.m., Thursdays 1:15-4:15 p.m.
On the Master Gardener website, http://goo.gl/NxhGKj, you’ll find the “Vegetable Planting Guide” on the right-hand side.
The guide gives the go-ahead for tomatoes, as long as they’re protected. That’s no problem during the day, when the weather already feels like spring. But you won’t get much action if the seeds realize it’s 35 degrees at night.
We could spend some time ruminating on why gardening is fun, healthful, economical, necessary, and sometimes the antidote to craziness. Personally, there are times when I need to garden, otherwise my brain might very well explode.
But the bottom line is planting tomatoes right now helps us look forward to spring.
The super-cool planting guide also gives the go-ahead for planting seeds for spinach, lettuce, carrots, chard and beets.
During a rather lengthy discussion with Maya, it was confirmed it would be fun to plant seeds indoors, and place the trays and pots in a sunny windowsill.
I’ve had great luck in the past.
Buy bagged seed-starting soil and choose whatever container you prefer. Clean yogurt containers with a hole in the bottom will do. Or you can buy pots that will disintegrate when you plant them in the outdoor soil.
I cover the containers with clear plastic wrap, and label them so I know what’s growing and how long it took to sprout.
Keep the soil moist, but uncover the plastic every few days so you don’t discover white mold.
Because the nights still dip down to the 30s, bring the project into the middle of the living room at night.
Once the sprouts appear, you can rotate the new seedling a quarter turn each day.
Windowsills aren’t perfect, and that’s why they created green houses and cold frames. Tomatoes, for example, will grow very tall and leggy in the window. But the beauty of tomatoes is that you can replant in a larger pot, and bury most of that peduncle.
You can also splurge for a heating mat, which will tease the plants into sprouting even more quickly. Just make sure you turn the thing off when you’re gone. With the drought, those firefighters are already fairly busy.
It’s good to plant lettuce every two weeks to create a steady supply. Just pay attention to the plants on sale now at the farmers market. When your indoor plants are the same size, start putting them outside for a couple hours each day until they are acclimated to the cooler outdoors.
Maya said she has lettuce in her yard right now. Even when some plants froze, they defrosted and were munchable.
We also talked briefly about the merits of cold frames. But we both agreed we’d need to have someone willing to build one.
If you’re ready to pick up a hammer, the Sonoma County Master Gardener’s website has some handy cold frame info.: http://goo.gl/dcDqcZ.
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