Friday, May 13, 2016

When to Plant?

When to plant? That’s the perennial question for any gardener, and if you’re anything like me you want to get everything out as quickly as possible. One advantage of container gardening is that you can put your plants outside pretty much whenever you want, as long as you’re prepared to bring them into some type of sheltered area when the nights inevitably get too cold. A garage, shed or barn works well, as does a living room or office, as we’ve had to do on many occasions. 
Let us out! 
This time of year is a paradox. We’re in Buffalo, NY, so we’re used to wild weather swings, but this spring seems to be fairly consistently cool and windy—neither of which are particularly conducive to growing most of the things we grow in the garden. The one positive is that it hasn’t gotten cold enough to frost here in weeks, so this year’s fruit tree crop should be much better than last season when we got the dreaded late frost. This also means that I’ve been able to have the citrus trees, onions, fennel, and some hardy herbs like chives, sage, thyme, rosemary, and cilantro outside for quite a while now.

However, it just hasn’t been consistently warm enough for the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants to go outside yet. Yesterday it was 80 here. Today it’s about 58, and very windy. This weekend’s highs are forecast to be 55 on Saturday and 46 on Sunday. As much as I might be tempted to put the tomatoes out and just bring them in when (not if) it gets too chilly in the evening, that quickly becomes more of a hassle than it is worth. It’s not so much the bringing them in at night, but the need to put them back out in the morning when you’re getting ready for work that you need to consider. It takes more time and effort than you think it would if you have any number of plants. If your cats see a cracked open door as an invitation to bolt outside like ours do then the process becomes a bit more “interesting” as well! If you have just one or two plants I suppose it might not be an issue, but for us it’s just not worth the couple of extra days outside for the plants.

A plant slumber party sounds more fun than it actually is! This was from the 2015 garden. 
With all that said, next week looks like a great opportunity for planting: highs in the low to mid 60’s (which is fine) and more importantly lows in the low to mid 50’s at night. It is also going to be mostly cloudy for a few days next week, which is my favorite time to plant because it allows the seedlings to become accustomed to the brighter light before they get hit with direct sun. Around here if you can get your garden out around mid-May you’re doing very well. Many people just wait until Memorial Day to avoid any chance of frost, but in the city it is almost always a few degrees warmer than in the more rural areas of the region, so we can get away with pushing it a bit.

The Mitoyo eggplants are the perfect size to plant!
As far as hardening the seedlings off first, I typically put them out for a few days before planting, especially if it’s going to be cloudy. One difficulty this year is all the wind, especially for the tomatoes, which are almost 2 feet tall! The wind just rips them to shreds if I put them out in their seeding containers. Once they are planted very deep this isn’t a concern, but I don’t want to expose them to too much wind stress just yet. As I mentioned before, planting during a cloudy period of a few days works very well, and I’ve never had a major issue with plants getting sunburned when doing that. Keep in mind though that I grow them a few inches from a repurposed aquarium plant grow lamp that is many times brighter than a typical grow bulb. If you use a sunny window you might want to be more careful of shocking them with the change in brightness.

Basil seedlings!
In other garden news, I just received my order of five 15 gallon fabric pots, which will replace the 12 gallon black plastic tubs I was using for the tomatoes. 12 gallons was fine for the tomatoes, so 15 will be even better, especially for the Brandywines. Since the weather is going to be cool and rainy, I’ll write up a longer post about these fabric pots in the next few days.

Finally, if you’re interested in more frequent updates from the container garden, be sure to like 
like captive roots on Facebook, as I frequently post a photo of the day from the garden.

Until next time, happy gardening! 

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