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It Happens Every Spring

Yes, it happens every Spring. I’m not talking about baseball, but rather gardening. As a home gardener I get excited when preparing for the first planting season of the new year in my own mud room.

It begins with deciding which varieties of crops to sow in small pots or flats. I think about the crops that did or didn’t do well the year before and new hybrids or heirlooms to try. I also consider crops to avoid because the season or climate just won’t allow them to flourish like a protected climatized environment.

Year after year my mudroom pretty much looks like the featured image. It isn’t pretty, but there is just about enough room with a counter, storage space, and a sink very close at hand. I start with the tomatoes. There are standards that I like because they have been productive before and will be okay with an early start. Greenhouse gardens do allow for an early start with some vegetables.

Some of the tomato varieties I prefer are Carbon Cherokee, Paul Robeson, Jean Flamee’, Marzano, Tappy’s Heritage, Pantano Romanesco, to name a few. They have different sizes, tastes, textures and harvesting times. I also like to introduce one or two others. This year we have a few Tomate Saint Pierre starts, a variety our son picked up while in France. We’ll see.

Before this becomes a “How to grow tomatoes,” let me add; local climatic and seasonal conditions dictate that other crops should be seeded in the late winter or early spring or the season won’t be long enough for the plants to mature to harvest. These include peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cucumbers. For me, to try to start planting many others is a waste of time. They do much better planted in raised beds, directly seeded and so I will consider planting them in my own Mud Hub Greenhouse. The raised beds are ideal habitats for growing organic vegetables.

I always use 2-3 seeds per pod or small pot when starting out. This method accounts for  seeds that will not propagate. Tomatoes are great because most seeds you plant make it and they separate in clumps when transplanted to bigger pots and moved into the kitchen sunlight. I used to do the same thing with broccoli, but that got somewhat annoying because they get spindly and don’t carry much soil when transplanted singularly. So, I  transfer the whole pot of broccoli seedlings as a bunch into a bigger pot.

Peppers are another story. After seeding you have to wait for weeks for any signs of life. Just when you think they’re collectively comatose, the seedlings appear and we’re ready to go.

Much patience is required when transplanting to bigger pots until plants are ready to brave the outdoors a little at a time, incrementally increasing exposure to the elements. When you rough the plants, you expose them to spring winds and unpredictable weather. Then, they are strong enough to survive when transplanted outdoors even before the last frost if protected by a greenhouse, keeping your lonely overwintering garlics, company.

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