With our May weather here turning colder than usual, I have delayed planting any of the warm season vegetables for the time being. Tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans both prefer and need warmer temperatures than we are having. So I am playing a waiting game until the weather cooperates. Gardeners are usually at the mercy of the weather, and there’s not a whole lot we can do to change it either!
One way to help decide when to plant certain vegetables is to take the temperature of the soil. You can get it by inserting the thermometer in the soil where you intend to plant the specific crop. You don’t need a special thermometer, and a kitchen type works well as long as it registers in the right range. I took a reading yesterday morning around 10 o’clock, and our soil temp was 55°F. Tomatoes are next in line for me to plant, and they need the soil to be at least 60°F or warmer to take off and grow. You can find a table listing the preferred soil temperatures for various veggies in my Seed Starting & Planting Schedule I worked up a few years back.
Of course there are a lot of veggies that do like this weather and the cool soil. I set out various brassicas back in early to mid April, and they are doing well. I have a bed of kohlrabi planted behind the greenhouse, and it is starting to size up already. This year I am growing Beas, Terek and Kolibri in the bed and the large Kossak variety in the main garden.
I have another small bed planted with pac choi and mizuna as well as a bit of leaf lettuce. I have netting over it to keep the deer and other critters from eating on it. I need to mulch that bed and spread some Sluggo pellets since I see signs of slug activity already. Sluggo (and Sluggo Plus) are organic controls for slugs and sow bugs that don’t harm earthworms or other insects. The active ingredient is iron phosphate, which is a naturally occurring compound in soil. It does need to be reapplied after several weeks though.
Behind the greenhouse I do have one Red Racer tomato planted in a 15 gallon Smart Pot. This 2018 AAS Winner makes 1 to 2 inch fruit that are set in large clusters and have a great flavor. I kept it in the greenhouse for most of April, until it started to get big and need support. It is beginning to bloom now, and hopefully will set fruit even in the cold temps. One advantage to using the grow bags and other containers is that they warm up faster than garden soil does, allowing me to get a jump on the season with a few plants. I also have Fairy Tale, Gretel and Patio Baby eggplant growing in containers that are still in the greenhouse. These three are also past AAS Winners, and always do quite well for me in containers.
In the main vegetable garden I planted broccoli, cabbage and the Kossak kohlrabi. I set these out about three weeks ago and they have taken off and made good growth so far. I have mulched with shredded newspaper and will add straw on top of that once the plants get a bit bigger.
Though I am not planting at the moment I am still working to get the garden ready when it does finally warm up. We’ve had enough rain to make the weeds grow, and in between the rainy spells I have been digging and tilling the beds to ready them for planting. I use cardboard as mulch to help keep the weeds down in between the beds and around the perimeter garden fencing.
Since planting will be delayed for another couple of weeks, I will be potting up the tomatoes from the 50 cell plug flats into individual pots. That will let the root systems develop as the plants get taller, which should help them get off to a good start even if the planting is delayed. I will likely do the same for the eggplant seedlings which are starting to get a bit leggy. Last year I was able to set out the transplants directly from the plug flat, but this year the weather is just not cooperating.
I hope you have enjoyed this update on spring plantings here in early May. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres – including Harvest Monday!