Friday, May 09, 2008

Spring Munchies

We sowed lettuce, spinach and sugar snap peas in the garden about six weeks ago. These plants thrive in colder temperatures and wilt in the heat of the Summer, so they must be planted and harvested by the end of Spring in our area.

Last year we tried to grow Space Hybrid spinach in both Spring and Fall. Both times were a failure. The seeds germinated successfully, and 2 cute little leaves formed, but then the plants bolted and went to seed prematurely. I was tempted to abandon future attempts, but I enjoy spinach so much that I decided to try a different variety this year, so we ordered Melody spinach from Park's Seeds. I have been very happy with this variety. Although the plants are not completely ready for harvest, we have been snacking on the bigger leaves for the past week. Since spinach is a leafy vegetable, it requires a fertilizer high in nitrogen. I have been feeding the spinach with a side dressing of 10-10-10 every four weeks.

spinach

We are growing the same lettuce this year as last year, Organic Salad Bowl Mix, from Park's Seeds. I like organic lettuce, because the leaves are small and easier to eat than non-organic varieties. It's nice to not have to tear the leaves up when making a salad, and there are no thick stalks in my bowl. Each leaf makes the perfect-sized bite! I particularly like this mix of seed, because there are four different types of greens in the packet. My favorite are the dark purplish leaves. The lettuce is on the same fertilization schedule as the spinach.

organic lettuce

Lettuce and spinach seeds are pretty small, and our soil is rockier than I would like it to be. Since rocky soil is not the optimal growing place for fine seeds, I dug a shallow trough in the soil, filled it with compost and sowed the seeds in the compost. This technique also helps me remember where the seeds were sown, since the compost is darker in color than the surrounding soil, and ensures I actually water the un-emerged seeds and not just the soil around them. Compost is also high in nutrients, so the seedlings had a good start as soon as they began emerging from the ground. When the seedlings had formed their first true leaves, I fertilized them with a shot of fish emulsion to boost their energy. Fish emulsion is a 5-1-1 organic fertilizer .

rows of lettuce and spinach

The sugar snap peas are well on their way to a bountiful harvest. This is the same variety as we grew last year. They are so sweet and tender that we overlooked their low yield and planted them again this year. We were a little late in getting these sown, because we had to rebuild the trellis, but I think they will make it to harvest before it gets too warm. Peas are legumes and are "nitrogen fixers," which means they put nitrogen into the soil instead of taking nitrogen away like other plants. Since the peas do not require a high nitrogen fertilizer, I am using a 5-5-5 fertilizer on them every four weeks.

row of sugar snap peas

I am going to be planting tomatoes, squash and green peppers and sowing the corn this weekend. Although we have a couple nights in the high 40's ahead of us, I have been hardening off the plants for three weeks now, and I think they are tough enough to withstand a couple of cooler nights.

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