Tomorrow: Saint Patrick’s Day deadline for planning Irish potatoes: This is a great day for the Irish and also a great day to get a potato crop in the ground to assure a productive harvest before Dog Days of August. A rule of thumb for an abundant potato crop is to plant them before or on Saint Patrick’s Day and harvest before Dog Days begin. Always remember to plant whole seed potatoes and don’t cut them in pieces because this causes rot and mold or mildew; plant seed potatoes at least a foot apart and apply a layer of peat moss on the seed potatoes before covering with soil.
Starting a few early tomatoes from a packet of seed: It is only mid-March but not too early to start a few tomatoes from seed. A packet of tomato seed costs around two dollars. The best varieties for starting tomato seed in cool spring is the Rutgers and Homestead varieties. Buy a bag of seed starting medium and fill two flower pots (medium size) with the potting medium mixed with proper amount of water and reserve enough medium to cover the tomato seed. Spread seed of the Homestead in one pot and label them. Cover the seed with medium, pack with the palm of your hand and use a spray bottle of water to give them a drink. They will sprout in either to ten days and develop two leaves about a week later. Transplant into individual pots. Place in sunny location outside when temperatures are sunny, but bring them in side at night as they get more mature, you may transplant them to even larger containers before planting them in the garden plot later.
Getting the riding mower ready for spring: As Saint Patrick’s Day moves in, the lawn is turning a shade of Kelly green as another season of mowing is almost here. This is the time to get the riding mower tuned up and belts checked as well as oil filter changed and have the rider ready to maintain the lawn for another season. Many repair and service shops will pick up your mower, service it and return it to your home for a small charge. For a season of trouble-free mowing, it pays to have your mower serviced every year.
Starting a row of broccoli for spring: Spring is only four days away and this is a great time to plant a row of broccoli for a great cool weather vegetable. The plants will respond quickly to the cool soil of early spring. Most hardware’s and seed shops have plenty of plants that come in six or nine packs. You can choose from Green Comet, Packman, Premium Crop, Raab and Bonanza. A row of broccoli planted now will produce a harvest long before hot weather arrives. Set plants about two feet apart for best results.
Almost an hour of extra daylight: Since December 21, 2016 we have gained almost an hour of extra daylight. This gives us some extra light to do outside chores as we prepare the garden plot for early spring.
A row of Siberian Kale for early spring: Kale is gaining popularity as the best green in the American garden plot. There are many varieties but Siberian is the toughest and is tender and sweet. Kale thrives in the spring and fall garden. You can also plant curly kale for a great spring eating. An ounce costs a little over two dollars and will plant a 4-foot by 8-foot bed or a 40-foot row. A good investment for an early harvest. Kale also can be canned or frozen for summer dining pleasure as well.
Saint Patrick’s Day opens the door to the spring garden plot: Not only can Irish potatoes be planted now, but also sets of onions can be planted and a pound cost around three dollars. You can choose from red, yellow or white onion sets. A bed of lettuce can be planted as well as carrots. The best carrots for the Piedmont area are the long Danvers type. Carrots require a 100-day growing season and need some help with soil enhancers such as peat moss and compost to soften and improve the soil and add depth to the soil. English peas are a good early spring crop that provides a harvest in 60 to 70 days. Mustard greens can be sown in varieties of Tendergreen, Florida Broadleaf, curly mustard, rape, kale and spinach. The seed store will mix all these varieties for you and cost around two dollars an ounce.
A plant bed cover is a gardener’s best friend: Cool early spring temperatures make a plant cover a blessing to early spring vegetables. These covers are made of reemay cloth, a warm netting material that insulates the soil as well as allowing precipitation to seep through it. It can be ordered from seed catalogs and comes in 20-foot rolls that can be cut to any size you need. Most hardware’s and garden shops also sell plant cloths. If you take care of the cloth, it will be useable for several years.
Do not gamble with warm weather vegetable crops: There is still a lot of cold temperatures remaining and cool weather crops will thrive and survive, but DO NOT PLANT any warm weather vegetables until late April or even early May. The seed of tomatoes and peppers can be started in mid-April and this is the exception to the rule.
A new tiny cherry tomato from Park Seed: You can use this as a container tomato but make sure the container is large like a tub or whisky barrel because this tomato variety is indeterminate, which means that it grows tall. This variety from Park Seed is named, “Candyland Red” and produces tiny 1/4-ounce tomatoes by the bunches. Just 55 days after transplanting from seedlings. They will need to be caged and staked because they produce fruit on large stems that will need plenty of support. They will also perform well in the garden plot. Personally, we like the Roma types better because they are more versatile. A packet of 30-seeds cost $3.95