Sunday, March 01, 2009

Garden Journal 3/1/09:
Early Spring Planting Plans & An Unexpected Delay

This Is A Lot More Snow Than Last Time—and the Garden Looks Even Prettier

Some of you are no doubt tired of hearing about our crazy and unpredictable Missouri weather, but it really does get in the way of gardening. Growing cool season crops is tricky because it stays like this and then warms up fast (like days in the 90s in April). Early and optimistic starts often end up freezing to death. On the other end of the growing season, with temps regularly in the 90s through September, it's often too hot to start fall crops in time to beat the oncoming cold. Not that this has ever stopped me from trying!

Last week my hunky farmguy Joe was clearing out beds (one benefit to neither of our antique tractors wanting to start!) while I direct seeded spinach without a jacket on, and this is the garden today. Yesterday about nine inches of snow fell in less than six hours. That's pretty unusual for us.

After I'd scattered spinach seeds over one entire 4' x 8' bed and sprinkled them with a thin layer of compost, we covered the bed with a sheet of 4 mil clear plastic (which technically isn't clear, but cloudy) in order to help warm the soil and speed up germination. (The other prepped but unplanted beds are covered with black plastic to warm the soil while keeping weed seeds from germinating.) That night a thunderstorm blew in, and it poured for hour, turning the lined spinach bed into a cute little pond. Now this. Joe says it just means we'll have really good seed to soil contact.

On February 20th, I thickly sowed some mache (a cool loving plant also called corn salad), Tom Thumb butter lettuce, and winter lettuce mix seeds leftover from 2008 in the greenhouse. No sign of them sprouting yet, but I'm still hopeful. Most of the greenhouse is full of overwintered Swiss chard that's now flourishing, so there isn't a whole lot of room for planting (not that I'm complaining), but I'm planning to tuck three kinds of beet seeds (also from 2008) and maybe some other stuff in there in the next few days.

Snow isn't a problem in the greenhouse, but Sylvester the cat is. It's a toss up when direct seeding-do I cover the bed with floating row covers and/or sheets to keep him from digging and keep the soil warmer at night, or do I leave them bare so he won't be inclined to curl up and sleep on the cozy covers? Oh, the things we animal loving gardeners have to deal with.

Comfy Cozy Are They? I Hope So.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, we put 400 little leek plants into the now snowed-in mini greenhouse bed above (for more about these handy and inexpensive shelters, see the comments section of
this post). It got down into the low teens last night, so at least they were insulated. Tonight it's supposed to be even colder, but today it's sunny and my nice insulation slid off. I'm still deciding how I should keep the plants warm tonight. Leeks don't mind cold weather, but I'm thinking 8 or 10 degrees F might really shock these little babies.

This is the first time I've purchased leek plants. I'll share some photos and write more about the planting process if they survive tonight. I'm just glad I didn't have a chance to put the 600 onion plants I also ordered in the ground yet. This was another first, as I usually
plant onion sets. I ordered 10 varieties, 60 plants each, including several types that really aren't suited for our area. I was feeling adventurous—and I guess last spring's super scallion bounty didn't scare me off.

I can't remember if that "In like a lion, out like a lamb" saying is about March or April. I do know that our April will be out like a lamb—in
the most literal sense. As someone who detests hot weather, I'm in no hurry for winter to end, but I'm definitely wondering what the rest of this month will be like. I figure I'll just plant when I can (paying attention to the moonsigns if possible) and hope for the best. Of course, I suppose that's what we always do in the garden, no matter what the weather or the season.

Is your garden still covered with snow?

Related posts:
Onions in the Garden
Three Onion and Three Cheese Pizza Recipe
2/20/06: Susan's Super Spinach Soup
It's Time to Plant Onions!
Interplanting Lettuce and Beets with Onions
What To Do with 125 Green Onions?
Book Review:
Astrological Gardening:The Ancient Wisdom of Successful Planting & Harvesting by the Stars

© 2009, the foodie farm blog where a snowy landscape is beautiful to look at but kind of hard to deal with—and now it's time to go get the animals and the garden ready for tonight's arctic blast.


  1. I'm in Vermont and my beds are definitely covered with snow. Last year the beds weren't fully clear until mid April. With more snow on its way tonight, it looks like it may be mid-April this year as well.

  2. no snow here in PA but we're supposed to get a few inches tonight. We'll see if that actually comes true since the weather men in these parts are wrong 78% of the time. The only garden life I'm seeing right now is in my basement under the grow light!

  3. It's supposed to be seven whole degrees here tomorrow night. I have not planted anything in the garden yet. Good thing, because there is no snow on the ground at my house. That thick blanket you have will protect your plantings from your arctic blast. See? There's your silver lining. You're welcome.

  4. I live in Memphis, and we got about 6 inches from the same system. We're warmer than you by about 15 degrees (tonight's low, anyway), but the weather is just as unpredictable, and has been for a long time. Meteorologists here tend to go prematurely gray. That's why I'm always interested to see what you grow- and what survives these crazy conditions. About half the snow melted off today, more in south-facing areas, but my garden area is still covered. We're supposed to have shirt-sleeve weather again later this week, so I'm planting a lot of stuff then.

  5. Hello, Susan! I was born and grew up in Glendale, a suburb outside St. Louis. I remember building a snowman around Christmas and it was still standing (a little melted) on my birthday in May!! May I compliment you on your blog. You were one of the first that I read - now I am addicted (happily). Your story about Carey was just wonderful - made me laugh and cry sometimes at the same time. And, congratulations on the new book!! Will anxious await it. Take care and please keep on blogging!!!

  6. Susan, does planting mache in late winter work for you? Here in the Northern Virginia Piedmont (where it is currently snowing, and where I also direct seeded spinach last week because I never got to do it in the fall when it should have been done), mache must be planted in the fall if one wants any decent crop: it bolts at the first hint of warm weather around mid-april.

  7. No snow here !!!just hot hot hot !!I cant imagine not gardening for months on end.You must have to start from scratch every spring,where as we can grow all year round.Love the snowy photos,Im waiting for Autumn to kick in,it will be nice to have more comfortable temps :0)

  8. Yup, the snowstorm here in the northeast (CT) has hit us hard and thrown some plans for a loop. Quite a shock after the nearly-60*-temps we had last week! But at least in such a late storm it might not actually "stick" and freeze as long? Here's hoping... I am fully ready for spring!

  9. We just got a bit of snow, but it's bitterly cold here today (in the teens, really cold for march).

    I used to grow onions from sets but I've had much better luck from seeds, plus it gives me something to do in January.

    Love the little greenhouse, we just bought stuff to make these on all of my raised beds. Can't wait to get out & get them finished.

  10. A foot of snow!!! I've never seen this much snow in Southern Maryland... I was so ready for Spring!!

  11. I just wanted to tell you now much I love making your spinach soup where I work. I cook for 50+ sorority girls at a university and they LOVE that soup!

  12. Heavens, yes, my garden is still covered with snow. My compost bin is snowcovered, too. Tomorrow morning, if we're lucky, temps might hit zero when we're getting on the school bus.

  13. My beds are covered in snow today here in central VA. I hope to plant seeds outside in the next couple weeks. I'll try the row covers to keep things going. I have fall spinach still under cover and harvested some Friday knowing it would be in the teens tonight. My onions and leeks and parsley and chard are all on heating mats in the basement. Hoping to put those out soon too and free up more lamp space for my summer stuff.

  14. Oh yes, we just got about 8" of fresh snow today in New Hampshire. You're not alone!

  15. The weathers playing possum and not only in Maryland! I had all my March saplings and seeds ready for the pots on my balcony but the inclement weather threw all my gardening plans out of the window. But can Spring be far behind :-)

  16. yes, my beds are covered in 9 inches of freshly fallen snow. thankfully its too early for anything to be in the ground yet for me (southwest VA mtns zone 6-7), so everything i've started from seed is still safe and sound inside and under plant lights.

    i have mixed emotions about the crazy weather: i'd love for it to go ahead and warm up so i can get to planting, but since good snowfalls aren't that common around here, i've been totally mesmorized by how beautiful everything is when covered in white.

  17. Hi Everybody,
    It's nice to hear I'm not the only one whose garden is buried under a snowdrift! And I always love reading all your updates from around the world.

    I haven't had the courage to check the leeks yet, but I'm hopeful they're fine all tucked in the mini greenhouse bed. The spinach seeds are stuck under a frozen 'pond' but should be okay once they warm up - which may be soon, since it's supposed to be in the 70s on Friday. Crazy!

    Hi Sylvie,
    The mache in the greenhouse was a whim of an experiment with some seeds from last year I never sowed. I'm not sure if they'll even be any good.

    I've had volunteer mache pop up in the winter greenhouse before, so I figured maybe I'd be able to get a quick crop in before it warmed up too much in there - and that I had a much better chance of the soil warming up enough to germinate than outside.

    Sowing seeds in fall would have been a smarter idea. That's the only trouble with the greenhouse - even in winter it'll get up to 100+ degrees in there when the sun is out, so cold-loving plants often get confused. You can't start things like lettuce (or mache) too early in fall or it'll be too warm, and then on the other end (like now) it starts to heat up too much. Same thing happens outside basically here, too. Fall and spring seem to last about two quick weeks.

    I know I get confused every year trying to figure out what besides Swiss chard will put up with the drastic temperature differences in there! : )

  18. It's March that's "in like a lion and out like a lamb" as my memory serves me.

  19. Here in Colorado we are in the heat wave 70s today, Tuesday and by Friday will be in the 40s, We are very use to the swings of spring. I have spinach in and covered with plastic to keep warm when we get the 40s. I have broccoli plants started under lights. Peas and beets soon to go in the garden. I enjoy the snow pictures as we are not getting any snow just wind wind wind this year.

  20. What about putting chicken wire over the beds that Sylvester likes to dig or hang out in? I had to cover several of my raised beds with chicken wire to keep my five free-ranging chickens from digging them up completely this winter. It had the added benefit of keeping the neighborhood cats out as well. I just cut several pieces to fit and laid them over top, weighing them down in a few spots by bricks and stones.

  21. I am up here in Eastern Ontario and we have have a inch or so of frozen snow left, with rain in the forecast every day for the next week.

    I am an organic CSA farmer and this year I am growing a trial plot of Jelly Mellon.
    Have you ever grown them?

  22. Hey, I have a question for you. What suggestions do you have to keep the squirrels out of my veggie garden. Of course, this garden is still in my head but it will be two raised beds about 4x8. The squirrel populations is out of control here in northern NJ. The only pest control articles I have found deal with deer (they haven't bothered me yet). So, any suggestions (other than moving) would be great! Thanks.

  23. Yup, still snow cover here in upstate NY. Spring is still a couple of weeks away. And I've learned to wait a couple of weeks after the last frost to really get going in the garden. But still, it's time to get ready... The way I've been looking forward to spring here in upstate NY is ordering my gardening supplies. I went and put in my order for fertilizer at the local IGA, then I ordered my Woman's Work women's gardening gloves. I especially like these because they have a ventilated back and very tough fingertips. I gave away my last pair to a friend who was leaving for England, so now I need a fresh pair. Being an optimistic type, expecting early sun, I also ordered a new gardener's sun hat (after the dog developed a taste for raffia!)...

  24. I so sympathise- the weather here in central Virginia is equally nutty!! This week we set a record low for March (thank goodness I hadn't planted anything LOL) and now we're close to record warmth! Our garden was snowed in with a good 8 inches, now all melted.
    I was trying to make sure it was pea-time when I found your blog :) it's a keeper!

  25. I think this cold Winter weather has happened all over the Northern hemisphere. London has had an incredible amount of snow, as has Seattle and Poland. Let's hope we get a better summer than last year.

  26. How'd the spinach fare after the snow melted? I'm in Kansas City, and kinda glad I'm doing transplants as it rained HARD all night last night and I know anything trying to grow would have been washed away.

  27. Dear FG,
    I'm having InMyKitchenGarden withdrawals..! That snow must melt, and soon. So, in the meantime I switch to FarmGirlFare and read older posts. You are so inspiring FarmGirl... I picked up some Organic Whole Wheat AND White Flour yesterday at our local Natural Foods store (aka Ozark Natural Foods) and I'm so excited to make your Beer Bread recipe. Mmmm... Bread... BEER Bread!!

    Can't wait for the next post FarmGirl :)

    Right below you,

    Ha, word verification "Collytil"


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!