The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

Tomorrow is the day winters back breaks – Cold February mornings may make your back feel brittle and like it is going to break. Good news is on the way for all of us because tomorrow it is said that the back of Old Man Winter will break. This certainly does not mean that winter is by any means on the way out, but only means that tomorrow is “hump day” and marks the halfway point of winter.

February snows are called poor man’s fertilizer – Snow on a cold February day contains nitrogen as it falls from the sky and on the lawns, meadows, fields and gardens. The heavy weight of the snow covers the landscape with not only a layer of snow, but a dose of nutrients that soak deep into the soil. Maybe this is why the corn in the Midwestern corn belt grows seven or eight feet tall.

Setting out a row or bed of onion sets – In the cold soil of mid-February, it’s not too cold to set out onion sets because they will grow and thrive in cold weather. You can choose from red, white or yellow sets. Plant them in a furrow about three to four inches apart. Apply a layer of peat moss to bottom of furrow before placing the onion sets and then apply a layer of peat moss on top of the sets before covering with a layer of soil and then tamp down the row with a how blade for soil contact.

The good, the bad, the ugly of last year’s garden – One great thing about any garden is if something fails to meet your expectations you can always try something else in another variety. Some crops just perform in certain garden and areas better than others. We have found out the hard way that when a vegetable variety works in your garden don’t mess around with other varieties. On the other side of the coin, if a vegetable does not perform well, find one that will perform better in your garden. Every year, new vegetable choices debut, but new is not always better especially in this day of mostly all hybridized seed and mutation of seeds. One thing is for sure – the garden is a mixing bowl of success and failure and this makes it a continual learning process.

Starting the seed of broccoli and cabbage – As February reaches the midst of the month, the cool weather vegetables of broccoli and cabbage can be started from seed in a sunny location in the house. All you need are the seed and a bag of seed-starting medium. Mix the bag of seed-starting with the amount of medium needed to fill the containers or small pot that you will start the seed in. Add water to the medium to get it to the moisture content needed. Reserve enough of the medium to cover the seed. Fill pots or containers with medium to within half inch of top of containers. Sprinkle broccoli seed in one container and cabbage seed in the other. Label the containers and cover seed with reserved medium. Place containers in a flat tray in a sunny location in the house. On sunny days when the temperature rises above freezing, the plants can be moved outside, but remember to return them inside in late afternoon. In about two weeks, they will develop two true leaves and will be ready to transplant to individual pots. By the middle of March, they will be ready to transplant to the garden while they are growing inside the house, use a spray bottle to apply water to keep soil moist.

Dealing with the weeds of winter – The weed crop is tough and in winter some weeds thrive and survive. February has a few days with temperatures above the freezing status. Use one of these rare days to pull up and destroy chickweed, crab grass and Bermuda grass and honeysuckle vine’s growing on the edge of the garden.

Thinking about the 2018 tomato crop – Did you know that tomatoes come in almost every color of the spectrum? Several years ago Burpee introduced a special green tomato developed for those who liked fried green tomatoes. Other colors are red, of course, but there are yellow, pink, orange, purple, wine, white, mauve, and chocolate. You can order almost any color, size, shape and variety from a catalog from Tomato Growers, PO Box 60015, Fort Myers, Florida, 33903. This is a free catalog and if you are looking for unusual tomatoes, you will not be disappointed. They also feature heirloom varieties.

Ray Baird