The USDA has just published it’s updated plant hardiness zone map, updated to incorporate improved accuracy and detail, as well as recent warming trends. Most areas have been adjusted up about half a plant zone. I’m now fully zone 6b. Awesome. Used to be zone 5b/6a. I’m going to start growing stuff targeted for zone 7. bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
2012 USDA Ohio plant zone hardiness map
USDA updated plant zone map 2012
I love starting my seeds indoors in the winter… it’s a clear affirmation that yes, despite all the cold and snow of a typical Cleveland winter, spring is indeed on its way, and the countdown is marked by the seeds I start each week.
seed starting tray with celery and pepper seedlings
I keep my seeds organized in a large box which is divided into 4 sections, each containing the seeds I will be starting in February, March, April and May. Quart baggies work perfectly for holding the seed packets.
A large box works perfectly for keeping my seed collection organized
The Garden / Water Feature on a Rainy Day in Early March. (And typical of Cleveland, I woke up to several inches of snow the next morning).
OMG we survived another Cleveland February. March 5th its 50 degrees out, and the rain stops long enough for me to squish out to the garden / to look for signs of spring. Because yes, spring will arrive in two weeks. I have faith.
Soggy doesn’t begin to describe it. The garden after a snow melt and rain looks more like a leaf filled bog than a garden. But there are definite signs of spring.
Today I started two varieties of eggplant seeds: 3 Black Beauty and 2 Thai Yellow Eggplant.
Also started onion seeds: two 4″ pots of Crimson Forest Bunching Onions, and one 4″ pot of Evergreen Bunching Heshiko Onions. I broadcast the seeds on the pots, and brushed the seed-starting mix to lightly cover the seeds, topped it off with saran wrap. I will direct sow the rest of the seeds in the spring when I transplant the seedlings, as onion seeds are not supposed to keep well.
The green peppers have just started to sprout.
Leeks are looking scraggly.
Every month, there are tasks for the garden. Whether it’s starting seeds, prepping the ground, weeding, harvesting, or simply going through catalogs and planning the next year’s plantings, there’s always something to keep you close to the earth. Keeping track of it all can be a very involved task, particularly the seed starting part…what seeds to start when?
I have begun a new section of this blog, Gardening Through the Year. Each Month will have it’s own page, with the highlighted activities broken down by week. So far I have added January through April, in particular focusing on which seeds to start when.
I’ve also updated the Garden Spreadsheet, with more on what I am planting this year.
For February, its been mostly about the early seed starting indoors and updating my blog and documentation. There’s only so much you can do when the garden outside looks like this:
The Garden in Mid February.
Today’s seed starting:
California Wonder Bell Peppers: 1 flat of 25 plants. I’ve grown California Wonder before, both from seed and from purchased plants. They’ve done OK in previous years, though I’ve never been able to get them to grow into the giant peppers that I find at the Farmer’s Markets.
Alma Paprika Peppers: 6 plants. These were an impulse purchase. The Peppers can be either eaten fresh or dried to make Paprika Seasoning.
After weeks of brutally cold winter, the first signs of spring. A few days of wonderful warm weather, temps in the 50s, the snow is melting, and the daffodils are boldly and valiantly poking above the ground to give an early welcome to spring. I haven’t the heart to tell them that we still have some more nasty cold scheduled for next week.
Daffodils - February 17, 2011
January is about Seed Catalogs and planning a garden that could potentially outdo the Garden of Eden. I pushed the envelope and started leek seeds on Jan 22, broadcast in 4″ pots with a bit of saran wrap over them to keep the moisture in. The Giant Musselburg and Carentan leeks are both doing great, sprouted in a week and now looking like grass. The 2005 Poncho leek seeds didn’t do well, maybe 25% germination. On about Feb 13 I got impatient and started Geant Dore Ameliore and Conquistador celery seeds in one of those fancy greenhouse kits from Burpee. Trying it out even though I have MANY saved pots and containers for starting seedlings in, because I liked the greenhouse containment system and the ease of the little pellets. We’ll see how it works. This weekend I will start my pepper seeds, and next weekend I will start the eggplant and bunching onions.
Here’s a closeup of my beloved leeks:
Giant Musselburg and Carentan Leek Seedlings
The garden year officially begins! On the 50 degrees-and-drizzling first day of the year, I headed out into the mud-field / garden to find what might be harvest-able.
The haul: a nice supply of volunteer mustard greens*, a few leaves of Lacinato Kale, and a handful of baby Cosmic Purple carrots that I had missed during the autumn harvest.
Mustard greens, kale, and a handful of baby carrots harvested in the garden on New Year's Day, 2011
I am definitely going to focus more on cold hardy vegetables for my plantings this year!
So my impulse purchase at the Crocker Park Farmer’s Market in Westlake was seven (count em, seven) bee-yoo-ti-ful giant leeks. I drooled at the very sight of these leeks. I HAD to have them. I love leeks. I froze half of the leeks and ALL of the leek greens (the green leafy part) for chowder and casserole awesomeness this winter, but today, I just KNEW that some of the leeks had to become a casserole.