Friday, March 21, 2008

March 21, 2008

Tomorrow I plant potatoes.  I hope you don't have to have sprouted eyes to plant them. I've heard it's not necessary, but I wonder.  The weather's supposed to be mid 50s and mostly sunny, followed Sunday by rain, not showers, but rain, so I don't have to worry about the potatoes getting enough water, hehe. But the Easter Bunny's fur is going to get wet and matted.  Note to self, bring rain gear for the kids.

I just read that chill hours is the number of hours below 45 degrees.  I'm not sure what that all refers to, but if you're counting hours, we've got to be in the thousands right now.  It's been under 45 for several days now.  I bet that's why my garden hasn't sprouted.  Or maybe I planted the seeds too deep.  I just poked my finger in and had my son drop a seed or two.  I didn't measure.  Maybe I should have.

WHOOOOT! I went outside for the first time in two days and I found 10 radish sprouts!  Yay!  I must say I was really getting discouraged.  Nothing else sprouted and I found a dead worm in one of my pea squares.  I have NO idea what's wrong with them.  Maybe they were sick when I got them. I sure hope my "dirt" is ok. 

I got worried when I saw the worm and varying health of my transplanted seedlings.  I could just see it being the compost, or the vermiculite, or whatever and needing to replace 6.5 yards of material.  See what an active mind on a novice gardener can do to you?  And they say this is relaxing.  Hehe. It is, just not when you're used to things happening much faster than they go when asking plants to grow. 

Do experienced gardeners every run into this kind of anxiety?  I sure hope not, because it would give me something to look forward to in a few years.

Late night addition:

I was shutting down for the night and decided to check the weather for tomorrow because it can literally change overnight on the coast here.  It's 41 now, feels like 37.  Oh crap, it has a low for the night of 32.  I get a flashback to Judy's late-night insomnia weeks ago when she was panicked that it would freeze with her fragile seedlings outside in the cold.

I've got two SF of seedling spinach, two cauliflower, one broccoli and one SF of radish seedlings in three separate beds.  Should I run out at 11 pm and cover them with my nifty coldframe windows, or risk it not getting there or having the cool-weather seedlings survive the freeze?

What I did was err on the side of caution and go out and place a 9 oz cloudy translucent plastic cup (that I used to pot up my seedlings), with holes in the top, over the single broccoli seedling in my middle bed.  Then I pulled out a 2x3 window and placed it over my 3x5 bed, covering the fragile new radish sprouts.  Finally, I took a 4x5 coldframe and placed it at an angle over my second largest bed to cover the corner and the square on the other side where I transplanted the spinach seedlings.  The frame also covered the cauliflower seedlings and rested comforably on the carrot plank. 

Maybe it saved my seedlings, maybe it was too late for any heat to be trapped under the windows, and maybe it wouldn't have mattered one way or another.  Only time and will tell.  Gotta love late March prior to the Last Spring Frost...

Now I'm going to bed.


  1. Huh, guess it was getting kind of chilly in town after all. Anyway, just wanted to say... March is a hard time to grow, as things are so cold and slow. You'll be all abuzz in May-July; things happen FAST then!

  2. "March is a hart time to grow, as things are so cold and slow."

    But I guess that doesn't mean not to plant in March. The cool-weather crops just do their thing and wait for the right time, right? That's central to the Winter Sowing technique I've been interested in since Alberta suggested it.

    So what you're saying Toasty, is to hang in there and don't worry, because May-July will be superfast? Hehe, I've got Little Einsteins on for the kids, next I'll be saying moderato. hehe

    Thanks Toasty, you're a great benchmark for my novice garden. I appreciate the help and camaraderie.

  3. I think you're a bit too early with the potatoes. Although they are cool weather crops, they are not frost hardy like lettuce or radishes. I live a bit south of Portland, OR and it was 26 degrees last night and our last frost last year was on May 2nd. I'm guessing in Seattle it's cooler during the day than here, but not as cold at night.
    Instead of planting the potatoes now, I strongly suggest that you 'chit' them. That is, place them in a cool, brightly lit location (not direct sun) in your house for a month. They will sprout just fine, faster than in your garden. Then, after the frost threat is over, you carefully plant the potatoes in your garden, slicing pieces in half as necessary. I like this method cuz you can see which eyes have sprouted as you plant them. Handle carefully as sprouts will be brittle and easily broken.
    Large scale potato farmers would do this if they could, but handling the sprouted potatoes so carefully on a large scale is not practical for them, but it is for the home gardener.
    Even doing this, I feel it's still to early to start the chitting process where I live. A month from now I will still be expecting mild frosts.

  4. "...that doesn’t mean not to plant in March. The cool-weather crops just do their thing and wait for the right time, right? ... hang in there and don’t worry, because May-July will be superfast?"

    Yup, pretty much. I think that's what a lot of sites hint at when they say the later-planted catch up with the earlier-planted.

  5. Potatoes planted too early may sprout nicely but a frost will kill them back to the ground, reducing the seed potatoe's viability.

  6. Hmm, thanks both of you. I think I may plant this weekend anyway because I want new potatoes sooner rather than later, but I think I'll get a cover for it to protect from frost. Just a thought.

  7. Hi there - Your garden looks good. I just started squarefoot gardening last year in Portland, Or. I am interested planting potatoes and was looking for square foot potato sucess stories. - I was planning on throwing them into the ground around mid-april. I threw a few sprouted potatoes from the kitchen into the garden last year around June(?) and pulled up some very small but very tasty potatoes later in the year. I'm going to try and to it right this year -- I'm dedicating 8-12 squares to potatoes. Do you know how to space them? good luck and happy gardening.

  8. Knorq, great to hear from you! I love Portland almost as much as Seattle. They are such similar cities yet have their own unique personalities. Glad to hear you too are starting SFG this year.

    I can't offer a success story planting potatoes as I've never tried it yet. This will be my first year planting anything. That said, I would encourage you go check out my Build-As-You-Grow page. Initially, the bins were to be used in conjunction with raised beds. I just ran out of room so I adapted them to work without raised beds to set on/in.

    With these bins, you can go from an average of 2.8 pounds per SF in a SFG bed at 1 seed potato per SF (there's your spacing answer), to an average of 50 pounds per SF with my bins. Plus you can grow so many more veggies and flowers in the rest of the bed that the 2SF bin didn't take up. It's a win/win situation. There's my biased opinion for you.