Now that the end of February is here we can begin to look to the spring with earnest.
Most seeds for annuals and vegetables call for starting 6 to 8 weeks before the date of the last frost. Anyone who has lived in Northern New York for more than a few years probably knows that we can get a frost until Memorial Day, which falls on the 25th of May this year, 2009. The actual date can vary due to changing weather but we use the end of may for our planting rule of thumb.

But this is just a guideline. If we want the plants to be large and vigorous we need to start them earlier. For example we started the begonias in the beginning of January, which if the truth be known is a bit late.

This week we started the wave petunias. They are a bit slow to start but we want to be sure they will fill a basket by Mothers Day. And since we use organic methods we do not spray growth inhibitors on the petunias. Growth inhibiting chemicals stunt the upward growth which makes the plants bushy. We prefer to pinch the plants to make them bush out.

For example we have a number of Martha Washington Geraniums that we will use to decorate in window boxes and more we will sell. Once the starts are on the way the plants will try to send out blossoms. We want the plant energy to go into root and leaf development so we pick the blooms off. In cases where we the plants are missing tags we allow a few blossoms but once they are tagged we pick the blossom buds as soon as they appear, and it really seems to help.

Our other tasks this week included transplanting the tomatoes and lettuce plants that were started a few weeks ago. We use 6 by 8 plastic flats for starting small numbers of plants, like 4 to 6 tomatoes of a few lettuces plants.

6 by 8’s are 6 packs, 8 in a flat for a total of 48 cells. If we are growing to sell we usually use open flats to start as many seeds at once, 150 or more, but it makes more since to use the individual 6 packs to start smaller numbers.

We also took orders from the Jefferson and Lewis County Cooperative Extensions for tomato plants. We grow and donate plants and this year it looks like we will be growing up to 200 tomatoes for the bucket gardens. They use a determinate bush type tomato like an early girl. We want to start them early so they are good and bush for transplanting when the time comes. I think we will try and find some deeper growing packs to give the roots more room since we will be starting them early. This way when the plants are distributed they will be well on the way to producing tomatoes.

We really like this sunny weather, even if its cold outside, the sun keeps the plants warm and dry, free from mold and disease. The only draw back is we can not spray for bugs in sunny weather. We use an organic spray called Pyola which is a emulsified canola oil and natural pyrithium. The emulsified oil can burn plants when used in strong sunlight so we may wait a few days to spray when the weather is more overcast.

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