PLANTING INTO THE POLAR VORTEX

Doug and I try to eat as locally as possible, and with a year-round farmers’ market in Madison,  we are still getting apples, and root vegetables grown last year – even cabbages, which are so much sweeter and more flavorful than anything that has been drenched in petroleum while being hauled from who-knows-where.

I had one of these wonderful farmers' market apples today.

I had one of these wonderful farmers’ market apples today.

Normally we can keep eating local hoop-house spinach all winter long, but this winter defeated the heated hoop houses, and spinach disappeared from the farmers’ market early.

Of course, the most local food comes from your own garden, and we have just had our first home-grown greens of 2014.

I'm still sweeping snow off the greenhouse every few days so it can start warming up.

I’m sweeping snow off the greenhouse every few days so it can start warming up.

We have an  unheated, lean-to  greenhouse on our barn, and this year the polar vortex is keeping it cold a little longer than usual, but February 8 we planted the last of our spinach and lettuce seeds from the previous season in pots.

February 9 (after a trip to town) we added Italian Heirloom Kale, Parsley, Spearmint, Oregano and Sweet Marjoram to our little table-top garden.

New born lettuce

New born lettuce

Watching them grow, monitoring their moisture and moving them around the room to keep them in the best possible light has been an entertaining project.  Starting seedlings in your kitchen is almost like having a very quiet, fuzzy green pet.

Don't these little spinach have an adorable Dr. Seuss quality?

Don’t these little spinach have an adorable Dr. Seuss quality?

We put about 4 seeds in each pot.  A few pots never burst forth, but after 2 weeks, Doug transplanted extras from the successful pots into the empty ones.  They are still a little smaller, but coming along.transplant

At first we were misting the surface of each pot every day (more sometimes on sunny days), but once their first leaves unfurled, we started tapering off the water to avoid creating a fungus farm around their delicate and vulnerable stems.  Growing them with only available light makes them a wee bit spindly, but everything is a trade-off, and we chose to skip grow lights this year and see what happens.

An interesting contrast between the concrete outside and inside the glass.  And all that wonderful warmth inside is solar - no propane or wood needed when the sun is shining, and for quite a while after.

An interesting contrast between the concrete outside  and inside the glass. All that wonderful warmth inside is solar – no propane or wood needed when the sun is shining, and for hours after even in the coldest nights of the polar vortex.

We had to leave them unwatered for three days while we went to the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse.  When we came back they were bigger and better than ever.lettuce

March 2, we thinned each pot to 2 plants and had our first salad, dressed with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and cranberry mustard.  Magnifique!

Our first home-grown salad of 2014!

Our first home-grown salad of 2014!

Doug has placed 4 hi-lo thermometers in the greenhouse, two inserted into the soil and 2 just above.  Yesterday was sunny, and the air got up to 63 F.  The soil temp is only 30, and the nights still go below freezing, so we are waiting for the nights to get a little less intense out there before we replant our little darlings to the greenhouse.

Next up — my best friend and gardening consultant, Susan, tells me it’s time to start onion seedlings for transplanting directly outside.

Do you have a greenhouse or cold frame that you are using to get a jump on spring?

 How far along are your greens?

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2 replies

  1. I am at the “I’m thinking about it stage”. Normally at this time of year we still have lots of snow, this year we don’t – you have it all obviously and our spring seems to be hastening on its way. I do aim to plant some seeds for a salad soon and we were planning on possibly starting somethings in the greenhouse and making sure we either cover up at night, or put them in the caravan (trailer), which is still in the greenhouse, where we put it every winter. Maybe tomorrow 🙂

    • Hi Joanna,
      Yes, I’m thinking about a lot of the things we will plant too. Our snow is finally starting to melt, and a garden seems more real this week.
      It’s going to be our first year in our garden plot, and I’ve got a lot of ideas.
      Denise

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