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Seed Starting

Balcony Gardening

Dinosaur kale in our balcony garden. What a show-off.The one question about apartment gardening that I am asked more than any other is: what should I grow this year? Fair enough. My sort of obvious, kind of cop-out answer has always been: grow what you like to eat.

My expertise on small-space gardening was always a bit theoretical. I’ve grown tomatoes and a whole bunch of other things in a small garden at the cottage, but it’s really twice as big as some community-garden plots in downtown Toronto. Stretches the “small space” definition. This year though, we moved into a new place with a balcony, just in time to cultivate some plants that gave us food this summer and that made our apartment a more pleasant space.

Gambling with Tomatoes

As mentioned in the April Gardening post May 26 is the average last frost date for the general area our vegetable garden is in.  Other than cucumbers, peppers, and zucchini tomatoes are the garden’s most frost-sensitive, common plant.  The consensus advice is to wait until a week after your average last frost date to put them in the ground.

I’m partly motivated by a competitive drive to be the first with backyard tomatoes; I’ve been very good about staying away from mealy, pink-white winter tomatoes and it would be great to break the fast even earlier in August; but at this point there is also a strong desire to get all of these pots off the kitchen windowsill and outside.  The temperature this week are supposed to be above seasonal with highs in the low- to mid-twenties and lows not below ten degrees celsius so it’s definitely time for the tomatoes to go into their final home in the garden. (more…)

Gardening in April

In Southern Ontario we have had a very warm spring this year.  No snow in Toronto in March (though a bit in April) and temperatures over 20°C on more than a couple days.  This is what May is meant to feel like–in good years.  Last year we had accumulated snow on the ground in the second week of April and I wrote a useful (I think) post discussing the concept of degree growing days.

Garden dug, compost spread, and surface raked: A blank garden canvas

From a vegetable gardening perspective the warm weather has caused a strong desire to start planting.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac site puts the average last frost date for Barrie–the city closest to our garden at the cottage–at May 26.  In my three years of vegetable gardening I have not experienced a frost this late and I’m willing to gamble that all the heat and sunshine we have has warmed the water and soil enough to protect hardier seedlings from any freak May frosts. (more…)

Seed Order Arrives

My main seed order for 2010 from William Dam Seeds

Friends, I hope this is the only time I resort to writing about my mail.  This is a special kind of mail, though, yesterday my main seed order arrived.  Everyone is rambling about their tiresome first signs of spring so let’s just call this the first signs of good food to come.

New tomatoes: Black Krim, Red Currant, and Amish Paste

Most of the seed for the vegetable garden at my family’s cottage in 2010 has come from an order I placed with William Dam Seeds.  The tomato seeds that I saved last year will be augmented by Amish Paste, Black Krim, and Red Currant (all organically-raised seed).  I’ll have more beets for pickling and roasting–both the visually-interesting Chiogga Guardsmark and the yellow-orange Touchstone Gold.  I’ve tried my hand at peas and soybeans in past years and will add broad beans (Witkiem) to my repertoire this time.


First In, Last Out

Tiny tomato seeds only get a very thin covering of soil

This brilliant spring, nay summer, weather is making me wish I was in the garden at the cottage right now.  I am reminded that in the first week of April last year our backyard greenhouse was covered in snow–and it looks like we may get snow next week–and also that this week is the time for starting tomato seeds.  I’ve written about it before but for us to get a good crop of tomatoes ripening by the end of August the plants need to be eighteen to twenty-four inches tall by the time the ground is warm enough for them at the beginning of June.

Potting mix in plugs ready to be seeded