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Planting Parsnips, Peas, and More

This afternoon we did the very first planting of the spring out in the Demo Garden. That planting encompassed 3 different garden areas.

First, we planted some onion transplants in the Pizza Garden.

We made two “trenches” about 2-3″ deep between the leeks and the garlic. (Okay, so we pulled out one row of leeks to make space.)

The we put the onion plants in about 3″ apart. We have one row of red onions and one row of Texas 1015Y yellow onions. We tamped the soil around the plants, and then replaced the straw mulch that had been in the garden from last fall.

Next up was the Kids’ Snack Garden. We have some nice, freshly finished compost from our bins, and we worked a couple inches of it into the soil before planting.

We are planting right along the drip lines this year to help keep everything watered with potential continuing drought. The sandy soil in the raised beds doesn’t move the water as well laterally, so we want the seeds to have the best chance to germinate and keep growing. We planted two rows of Easter Egg Mix radishes along this drip line (one on each side, about 1.5″ away from the drip line). On the other drip line we planted 2 rows of carrots, one row of ‘Mokum’ and one row of Kaleidoscope Mix. Along the middle drip line we will be transplanting some lettuce in a couple of weeks.

We planted some ‘Sugar Ann’ sugar snap peas in a container that will sit next to the Kids’ Snack Garden.

Then we moved over to Bed 3, which is the Fall Root Vegetables & Greens garden this year. (It is full of garlic right now, except for this end section.) We planted about 4 1/2 feet along each of the three drip lines. As in the other garden, we planted one row on each side of each drip line. We did extend past the end of the drip lines, if for no other reason than to see what difference it makes in germination and growth.

We planted radishes and parsnips in this section of this garden, and we did something a little different with it. We actually planted BOTH the radishes and the parsnips in each row. This is something that I’ve heard recommended before (and I think my dad has done it…? I can’t remember.) Basically, the biggest challenge with parsnips is that they are extremely slow to germinate. It can take 2-4 weeks for them to show the first leaves, and even then they are very small leaves. In contrast, the radishes will germinate, grow, and be ready to harvest in about 4 weeks. The radishes will help us keep track of the rows, make sure we water sufficiently, and keep the soil loose to aid in the parsnips germinating. (We may also get some help thinning as we harvest radishes!) That’s the theory, anyway. The parsnips will continue growing all summer, all fall, and possibly through the winter. Parsnips are supposed to be the sweetest after they have gone through the winter.

Anyway, it will be fun to see how they do!

The First Time Gardener: How I Decide When to Start Seeds

Figuring out the right time to start your seeds isn’t really that difficult. In fact, some people just start them at the same time every year and consider it done. That is certainly one option. I tend to go about it the long way around, even if it does usually end up the same. Here’s the process I use:

Step 1: Make a list of everything you are planning to grow.

This might seem very basic, but not everyone makes a list before planting! There are people that just go buy plants and seeds and stick them in without even considering anything else. If you were ordering seeds from a catalog, you probably already have a fairly comprehensive list. Here’s what my list currently looks like.

Veggie List

Step 2: Figure out what you need to start from seed indoors.

This step isn’t always as straightforward as you might think. A number of things can go either way. For example, lettuce. Are you going to direct seed it into the garden or are you going to transplant it? Are you harvesting it for baby salad leaves or as a whole head? Sprouting Broccoli? I don’t know…I’ve never grown it before! In the picture above, you can see I have a column marked DS/TP. That is my code for Direct Seed/Transplant. I’m going to go through the entire list and fill in one or the other. This way I can sort my list by that characteristic later if I need to.  It also gives me a quick reference for when I’m filling in the other columns so I don’t have to think.

If you aren’t sure what gets planted from seed outside vs. inside, here is the ever-handy Vegetable Garden Planting Guide. (You want to check page 2, column 2, where it says “Type of Planting.” Things you start indoors are labeled as “transplant.”)

Step 3: Decide how many of each thing I’m going to plant.

Again, this is a little trickier than you might imagine. If I were starting seeds for myself, I might just plant one extra of each thing. (I’ve told our Master Gardeners in the past that I always expect everything to grow, so I don’t like planting multiple seeds in each pot! Same goes here.) Because we are demonstrating a wide variety of different things, sometimes we are only planting one of each variety. Not much room for error! Because of that I typically will plant 3 when I only need one. That allows for germination problems and transplant problems. In my spreadsheet, I will just note the row length for direct seeded (DS) plants. (In the Veg. Garden Planting Guide, page 2, the columns labeled Avg. Spacing will help you figure this out if you aren’t sure how many plants fit in your space.)

TP and Number

Step 4: Determine when you are going to be transplanting all of these different vegetables.

Trust me. You have to decide when they are going out in the garden before you can determine when to start them. This year is a little trickier than normal, because we have a lot of things that are going to be transplanted in the latter half of the summer. If it is horribly hot, I would probably prefer to wait until August to plant. If it is an average summer, we could plant just before Tomato Day, which would be nice. Refer to page 3 of the Vegetable Garden Planting Guide to see approximate “plant outside” dates.

Obviously the things that will be direct seeded I mark with “NA.”

Transplant Date(Also note that I pick a specific day because we always have Demo Garden work days on Tuesdays. Occasionally the weather will outsmart us, but it usually works out.)

Step 5: Decide how many weeks you need to grow something and count back on the calendar from the projected transplant date to the projected seed planting date.

I typically allow 4 weeks to start tomatoes, because they are usually plenty big in that time. I would rather have them slightly small than slightly big. Basil is a quick grower, so that gets 4 weeks as well. Peppers and eggplant can be a little slower to germinate, so I will allow 6 weeks for them. In the fall, most of the brassicas only need 4 weeks to be large enough to transplant.

Complete Seed StartingHere you can see the completely filled in spreadsheet. This is the base plan, divided by garden. From here I will manipulate it so that everything is in chronological order. That way we don’t forget to plant something!

If you are interested in seeing the complete spreadsheet, here it is: Seed Starting Plan

Step 6: Start Planting!

If you are looking for some more in-depth information on seed starting, here’s another article: Seed Starting.

Starting Seeds

I put the first seeds of the new garden season in the soil this morning. Most of these are going to be for my class on “Grow Your Own Salad” at the Grow Good Food Workshop in a couple weeks, but the two rows of labeled lettuces will be for the Demo Garden.

A Kansas Seed Company

I just learned about this Kansas seed company yesterday, so I thought I ought to share the information!

Skyfire Garden Seeds is a small, Kansan-owned seed company, based out of Kanopolis, that sells heirloom seeds. Not all of the seeds are grown by the owner, but she does trial and save seeds from a number of vegetables. This intrigues me, because heirlooms are notoriously difficult here in Kansas, so having someone trial them and save the seeds of the best performing plants sounds like a great way to get some better production out of some of the heirlooms.

The only other Kansan-owned seed company that I know of is Seeds from Italy, which is a distributor for the Italian Franchi seeds.

Do you know of any other Kansan-owned vegetable seed companies that I’m missing out on?


Here’s another one that I wasn’t familiar with: El Dorado Heirloom Seeds.

Old Seeds for 2013…?

I was looking through my Richters Herbs catalog this morning, getting some ideas for the Herb sub-committee meeting, and noticed information about something called “Seed Zoo“. Basically they are working with ethnobotanists to preserve traditional varieties of vegetables found in different parts of the world. This isn’t a new concept, certainly. I’ve been a fan of Native Seed SEARCH for quite a while. They preserve traditional plants and seeds from the desert Southwest.

If you visit the Seed Zoo website, they have interesting stories to go with each seed about where they came from. While many of them probably wouldn’t grow well here, I always find it extremely interesting to see the differences in fruits and vegetables grown in different parts of the world.

One thing I find interesting is that in the descriptions, a couple of times they say that the particular melon was growing in a very hot humid location, therefore that variety might have some good disease tolerance. I suppose that is possible. It is also possible that some of the diseases we find problematic do not exist in those locations. Like plants, not all diseases naturally exist everywhere. They have to be spread to a new location in one way or another. That’s one reason that there are restrictions on importing plant material into the U.S.

Anyway, check out those links to see some very unique vegetables! (And if you’ve never looked at the selection of herbs from Richters, you should do that too!)