2018-04-05 / From The Garden

Spring Into Planting Time

By Cynthia Gibson

This is the time to plant your seeds indoors and, despite the cold, to also plant certain vegetables and trees.

March is usually a cold and rainy month on Aquidneck Island, and we might still experience more snow and another freeze. Although orchard owners hate late spring freezes because the cold kills the fruit buds that are about to open, there are plants and trees that will withstand a frost.

Many vegetable seeds will freeze and thaw as the soil warms from the sun. Therefore, you can get a head start with seeds of all lettuces, kale, onions and asparagus.

As for fruits, most brambles (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and rhubarb) can also be planted in colder weather. It is also safe to plant apple trees and blueberry bushes.

If you have little space when planting blueberries, buy a bale of peat moss, which is a very acidic mulch and soil additive. Blueberries love acid, so buy two blueberry bushes and one large bale of peat moss shrink-wrapped in plastic.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Place the bale on its side so one length is on the ground and the other side is facing the sky. Cut two round circles into the plastic, evenly spaced on the top of the flat-lying bale. Using a towel, move the peat moss aside to form a hole in each circle. Plant one blueberry bush in each hole, cover their roots with the peat moss that was moved aside, water and watch them grow.

This is an ideal planting situation for those with little land. You will have to thoroughly water the bale so it does not dry out. Do not let it get soggy, or you will encourage root rot.

For planting indoors, this is the time to get most of your seeds started. Fill your trays with garden or potting soil, making sure the potting trays have holes on the bottom so water can escape. A major fault of many new gardeners is thinking their seeds are not coming up because they are thirsty. Over-watering is your enemy! The seeds will indeed come up, but then they will fall over, turn yellow and die.

I always put a tray underneath the potting trays or peat pots and water from the bottom. This form of watering is excellent for encouraging root growth.

Seeds and soil love heat. Indirect light can make your seedling “leggy,” so be sure to find the most south-facing window in your home. If not, “grow-lights” will give artificial light.

Broccoli, cabbage, leeks, peas, large tomatoes (not cherry) and peppers of any sort are the seeds recommended to plant at this time. Getting an early start on your broccoli and cabbage seeds is ideal, as both are a fall-to-winter crop. The same is true for leeks, which take the longest to mature.

There are plant trays with plastic greenhouse-type covers on them that keep in just enough moisture for your seeds and seedlings. Once the seedlings reach the top of the mini greenhouse, simply remove the cover and leave them in your sunny window, rotating the trays once a week.

When sowing seeds indoors, a good rule to follow with large plants is to sow three seeds per pot. As they pop out of the soil and grow to about two inches high, throw out the two weakest plants. A perfect example of this would be tomatoes. When they get leggy, pinch them in half and toss the tops.

Once again, water from the bottom, place the seed trays in a sunny window and start dreaming of the deluxe vegetables you will enjoy this summer.

Peas will grow vines and be ready to plant outdoors in April, along with your other seedlings. Keep the tomato plants indoors until the end of April, depending on weather conditions. The other seedlings grown indoors can tolerate the cold until mid-April.

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