Monday, February 26, 2018

It's late winter but feels more like spring

Last week's rains finally ended on Saturday, and Sunday I started doing some preparatory tasks in the beds.  The  rain gauge showed 4 1/2 inches last week and with temperatures more like April,  it was unusual to say the least for February.  It was warm like this last February and this pattern is looking like the new normal - a warm spell in late winter then later a killing frost.  Last year most of the buds on the apple trees were killed by the late freeze.

Well Sunday was beautiful although still a bit muddy.  It was time to remove the plastic greenhouse, prop up the strawberry pallet planter and put the mobile cold frame in place.  Here's the big picture:

I usually remove the plastic greenhouse around March 1st.  Warm as it's been, it could have been removed earlier but I wanted to wait until the rains were finished as the soil inside is plenty wet already.  The garlic is looking fine, just a few plants missing:

But the overwintered spinach did not fare so well, and the row of lettuce is completely gone.  Several nights at -12 F will do that.  Still, there's enough spinach to provide some nice heads, and I'll seed in more spinach in the bare spots, although I never have much success with spring sown spinach.

On to the strawberry planter.  Last fall I removed the two props and laid it down on a layer of straw, then covered all of it with straw and burlap:

Yes I managed to insert my shadow in the picture once again.  After removing the straw and attaching the props, it's ready for a new season.

It looks like most of the strawberry crowns survived, and for the ones that didn't make it, a new runner can always be stuck into the potting mix to start a new plant.  All of the old runners were dead and were removed.  This location is not the best, it gets only 4 to 5 hours of light a day.  Eventually I want to design and build a better looking planter that doesn't have to be dropped to the ground  every winter.

Inside under the new LED lights, the onions are starting to germinate and the lettuce has opened up it's seed leaves.  I found that the LED lights have a focused cone of light, that is, the light doesn't spread out much, even at 16 inches above the plants, so between the lights and at the ends of the trays the light falls off somewhat.  I put a reflector at one end and will put another reflector at the open end, but I may have to buy a third light, especially when it gets 4 trays side by side.

Until the lettuce puts out some true leaves it's too soon to know how this is going to work.  I've found lettuce is a good indicator of the quality of light.  If it's inadequate, the lettuce will go spindly.

Lastly I rolled out the cold frame to it's springtime place.  I'm betting that the pond gets another skim of ice before we really get into spring.


Margaret said...

I know that many people love this mid-winter warm-up, but as a gardener, I'm always worried, especially when it's protracted as we know that winter is definitely not over yet. I'm looking forward to seeing how your LED arrangement works - I've just replaced T12's with (many more) T5's and I'm hoping this will make a big difference.

Phuong said...

Looks like a beautiful day to spend in the garden. It's amazing how much you're going to be able to start under those lights.

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