Okay, so it's rainy and cold and miserable. But that doesn't mean you can't prepare yourself for the beautiful weather on its way. Stop by and visit us at Victoria Gardens in Rosendale. Pick up seed starter, peat pots, and these beautiful Art Packs from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Start your tomatoes, basil, and peppers inside while it rains, and when the sun and warmth return (hopefully by Thursday) you can direct sow salad greens, radishes, kale, and other early vegetables outside.
We are lucky enough have Hudson Valley Seed Library Seeds. And when I say "we" I mean both the we of Victoria Gardens, but also the "we" of all the gardeners in the Hudson Valley and around the world trying to protect heirloom varieties and food source diversity. (Seed libraries around the world are needed to fend off crop "plagues" of fungus and other diseases - listen to this very interesting story on NPR.)
Ken Greene of The Hudson Valley Seed Library on his blog (Garden Notes for Seedy Folks) offers gardeners his advice for direct seed sowing cool crop veggies. Here is his #1 tip: "Begin in the late winter or early spring–but not until the soil is ready. Many cool-weather crops, such as spinach, peas, arugula, and hardy salad greens, benefit from being sown as early as possible. Germination may take a bit longer than under warmer conditions, but they’ll be off and running early, which means the plant has the maximum amount of time to grow before summer heat sets in. However, it’s important to wait to sow until the soil has recovered from the winter freeze-up and has returned to a friable, arable state. You’re looking for the top several inches to be dry and crumbly enough that the soil doesn’t stick as you run a tool across the surface but instead falls away in small chunks or crumbles. Clay soils can sometimes take 1-2 weeks longer than sandy soils to become planting-ready. As you continue to add organic matter to your soil over the years, it will become lighter and lighter and more easily worked at the start of the season."
Tip #2: "Do a thorough, pre-emptive weeding. Direct sown crops produce tiny seedlings that need careful attention to flourish. Among their greatest needs is to be free from crowding by weeds. This is easily accomplished in the greenhouse, where seedlings can be started in a weed-free potting soil. But when direct sowing crops, gardeners must pay careful attention to weeds during the seedling’s early days. Get a head start by doing a thorough, pre-emptive weeding before sowing. Pay special attention to stolon-rooted grasses and other perennial weeds, as it will later become nearly impossible to remove these aggressive growers without disrupting tender young seedlings. If gardening in a new or neglected patch, consider sheet mulching or tilling and raking multiple times to kill lurking weeds.
Tip #3: "Amend the soil thoroughly. It’s much easier to create a fertile bed for your plants before planting seeds than after they have emerged. An unplanted bed can quickly be thoroughly hoed and raked multiple times to incorporate a big pile of compost; trying to do such a thorough job once the seedlings are up is nearly impossible. So don’t jump the gun: add compost, lime, soybean or alfalfa meal, rock phosphate, kelp, or any complete organic fertilizer before planting. Many plants benefit from later side-dressings as well, but they won’t make up for the first-round big boost to initial fertility accomplished by thoroughly incorporating amendments."
For Ken's top 10 tips for direct sowing visit The Hudson Valley Seed Library Website.
"Our Art Packs are each designed by a different artist from the greater New York region (this includes upstate New York, the Hudson Valley, the City, Northern New Jersey, and Connecticut). Each pack celebrates the beauty inherent in heirloom gardening." -Ken Greene