When is the best time to start my seeds? I know everyone is getting anxious for spring to arrive but there are only a few things you need to get started this month. First let’s look at what is still growing in the garden. The kitchen garden is full of surprises this month. Winter has been kind this year and much warmer than last year. So far we have had very little snow and this weekend brought temperatures up to 8C. So you can imagine what the garden is doing, its pushing out new growth. The vegetables planted in late August of 2017 are doing well under the plastic covered raised bed. Just look at that lettuce above. The arugula has flowered and will go to seed and probably supply us with new greens in early spring. It’s time to cut back the leggy stems of the arugula plants and harvest what we can for salads. The kale is doing well and I have been able to harvest all winter. When it was below freezing I left the kale to recover for a few days before continuing to harvest. Looking two weeks ahead at our forecast there seems to be no frost in sight so we will be adding some manure to the raised beds as soon as we can pick some up. We always seem to wait too long and before we know it the plants are coming up making it harder to add soil amendments. The garlic has sprouted and is about an inch high in one of the raised beds.
The raised bed near the greenhouse has proved its worth once again. Its proximity to the house seems to keep it more protected from the elements. Upon pulling back the floating row cover I can see how well the vegetables are doing. Floating row covers are a gardener’s best friend, adding protection from the cold, preventing insect damage during the growing season and keeping the squirrels and cats off the food gardens. You can purchase floating row covers at garden centres or order them online. In the winter I use a heavy weight fabric for added warmth and in spring and summer I switch back to the lighter row covers.
Talking about ordering reminds me its time to order my 4″ pots for my tomato plants. I try to reuse my old pots by washing them each spring but when you grow thousands of plants that often means I am plugging the drain in the laundry room with soil and debris. Farmer Jim is never impressed when I plug the drains and washing pots outside in cold water isn’t fun. If only the greenhouse had hot running water. I can dream, right?
Let’s talk about seeds you can get started. This month I will be starting a few seeds of spinach and lettuce in milk jugs using winter sowing methods. If you don’t have a greenhouse, growing seeds in milk jugs is the way to go. Seeds germinate in the milk jugs when temperatures are perfect for the plant. The milk jugs act as mini greenhouses and with the cap removed it allows rain to get inside and air to get out. Once they germinate I will know it’s almost time to plant cool season crops outside. In the greenhouse I will plant some onion seeds and a few annual flowers for the garden but most seed sowing will wait until late February. For me late February is when I start to get more sun in the greenhouse. Most seeds don’t need light to germinate but they love bottom heat so I always use heat mats under my trays. Once the plants germinate light becomes important to keep the plants healthy and growing. Seeds such as Impatiens, Lobelia, Heliotrope, hot peppers, artichokes, asparagus, columbine, foxglove, leeks and woody herbs can be started now as they take longer to germinate and grow to the right size for transplanting.
It’s hard to fathom that in just a few months my greenhouse will be jam-packed with plants waiting to go outside. Lets hope mother nature cooperates and we see an early spring. After last years long cold snowy winter, we deserve it. Check back next month to see what I will be planting.
For more information on winter sowing, read my Winter Sowing 101
Don’t forget I have lots of tomato seeds for sale. You can find my list of seeds here at 14 Amazing Tomatoes You Need to Grow.