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Year two

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Year two

Post  edfhinton on 2/16/2014, 2:02 pm

I haven't posted since early last summer when I was learning a lot and making lots of mistakes to learn from, so I thought I'd say Hi All again and post on my successes and failures last year and my start for year two.

The year 2 start is short - I just got the grow light stand set up again and planted two varieties of onion seeds indoors yesterday.  I decided to try an earlier start than last year on the seeds to try to get them grown into a bit hardier sets before planting out.  They didn't do well last year.  I think the biggest issue with them was when I up-potted them before planting out they had a major setback.  Also I think my Home-Depot ordered Mel's Mix was probably not as good as if I had mixed my own.  None of the onions ever did bulb up and even the green onions took all season to get some decent sized ones. This year I have the seeds started using 3 inch pots so after thinning I can avoid up-potting at all before planting out (last year I used cells so I had to up-pot them). 

My year 1 results were very mixed.  Successes:

  • Tomatoes (indeterminate) in the SFG on the tellises, especially the cherry tomatoes.  I was very glad I didn't build my trellisses higher than 8 feet, because they reached that height by mid summer and I was having to weave them back down.   I also didn't prune enough, but the plants didn't seem to care.
  • Green beans trellised. Only problem was they had other tall things around them so we kept missing beans and then they would get too big.  (One of them was over 15" long!)
  • Lettuce after a major setback.  I started the lettuce indoors and it was doing great I thought.  But after transplanting out it stalled for several weeks before suddenly just taking off and growing a lot.  Didn't care for the variety either (Salad Bowl).  This year we are going to try Giant Caesar.
  • Peas - trellised.  Started them inside because my SFG boxes were not going to be ready in time, and they were getting way to big inside before I could plant out.  Then they stalled for 3 weeks after transplanting before taking off like weeds and producing lots of peas.
  • All of the herbs (Thyme, Oregano, Basil, Rosemary) in deck railing planters as well as the Basil in the SFG. We took the herbs in for the winter and they are going strong.


  • Tomatoes in very large pots.   I used the 3.5 gallon sell-watering kind for most of the determinates.  The pots tended to waterlog from the rains and production was not great.  Also, a large percentage of the plum tomatoes would fall off while still green, so we lost a large number of those to the compost pile.  Only reason we had lots of potted tomatoes was I had planted WAY too many inside and didn't want to just dump them in the compost last June.
  • Radishes.  Most of them didn't bulb up, but the ones that did were very tasty.  
  • Carrots.  These took a long time to start thickening.  But in the fall we started finding they were finally getting sizable enough to pull.  Some were as big as 2 inches across, and had quite a few 3/4 to one inch.  I also planted some too close together as an experiment because 16 per square seemed lower than I thought I should be able to get from carrots, but I don't think I will do that again.  I had one square as high as 49.  (7x7).  The square with 25 seemed just about right.
  • Spinach. Another one I will not try starting inside and transplanting ever again.  It never recovered very well after transplanting. Also, the variety (don't recall name - bought the seeds as an afterthought at Lowe's) had fairly smallish leaves (2-3 inches wide at most) and was only ok in terms of flavor.  We will try direct seeding Baby's Leaf this year.

  • Celery.  The Tall Utah celery grew like weeds.  There was lots of it and it was huge.  Problem is, it refused to blanch and it was bitter.  I wrapped the lower half of the stalks and they stayed as dark green as if they were not wrapped.  So the success part was that it grew great in the SFG, but we didn't use much of it because of the bitterness.  We've decided not to do celery again.

  • Zucchini - This was not in the SFG but I did put down Mel's Mix and compost where they were planted.  They did 'ok'.  Did not get a lot but part of that was because both plants got eaten almost all the way back by our local groundhog when they were just beginning to get flowers.  I proceeded to fence them and they took a while to come back and start producing.   Also, there were extremely few female flowers but lots of male flowers.
  • Green onions - mentioned above.  Got some decent ones but they took a long time.

Learning Opportunities (I don't call them failures because we learned a lot):

  • Corn.  Two problems.  1) I started them inside and transplanted and they did not like that.  2) Not enough sun.  I thought the peas would be done producing and so had the corn in a box that had peas on both sides.  But the peas were doing well and we wanted to keep eating them, so the corn got shaded by them.    We did get a few ears, but not enough to want to use SFG space for corn again.  Part of my problem was that box was meant to be the 3 sisters.  But I misunderstood what I had read about the 3 sisters and really had a way overcrowded box in addition to still having peas growing on either side well into summer.
  • Summer Squash.  These were in the back corners of the box with the corn, beans, and peas.  No sun whatsoever was the result with all the tall climbing stuff around it.  
  • Cucumbers.  These were in a box only a couple feet away from the corner of the box where the summer squash was.  It became obvious when we started getting cukes that they had cross-polinated.  To call them cucumbers would have been very innaccurate.   
  • Peppers.  Of the items that were not successful, this was the big disapointment, our California Wonder bell peppers.  The plants started ok inside, but seemed to stall a bit before getting to the point of planting them out, and did very little after transplanting.  I suspect this was another case of the Home Depot Mel's Mix not being as good quality as it ought to be.  We will be trying Burpee's "Sweet Carnival Mix" this year and with the addition of our own compost when the time comes to transplant we really are hoping to do better.  I am determined to be able to grow peppers!
  • Sturon onions - per above.  Never bulbed.


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Re: Year two

Post  quiltbea on 2/16/2014, 2:43 pm

I've learned not to waste indoor space and lighting for crops that grow well from seeds outdoors, that includes lettuces, greens, corn, peas and spinach.  The transpanting usually sets them back quite a bit so don't waste the effort. 
Lettuce...grow the leaf lettuces and you can keep clipping them back and they'll regrow.
I keep a pot near my kitchen door of 4 plants (Red Sails is good).  I can cut them back to about an inch to use in salads and they'll start regrowing in days.  I've clipped mine back 4 times in early spring to early summer before it got too warm.  Also, you can cover lettuces, spinach, and greens with shade cloth (cheesecloth in my case) to lengthen your harvest period.
Carrots take forever to grow but they get big by fall.
Celery....I buy mine.
Radishes like it cool.  Sow seeds outdoors 3 weeks BEFORE last frost and just cover over with soil.  Pick them when you see their shoulders pushing up out of the ground. 
Peppers should be transplanted a good 2 weeks AFTER your last frost, when nitetime temps are at least 55*F and soil temp 60*F.
Eggplant doesn't like cool air at all so be sure the nitetime temps are at least 60*F before you transplant outdoors.  They can be touchy to grow in the north.
Onions....buy them as sets and you'll get a great harvest by fall.

I'm sure this year will be better for you.  We all learn from our earlier mistakes and we can even experiment to see what works best for us in our particular micro climate of a garden and our soil.  No one's garden is the same.  Just keep trying.

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Re: Year two

Post  sanderson on 2/16/2014, 2:50 pm

Ed, Thanks for checking in and giving us your hits and misses. I am also 1 year Newbie.

I also planted onion seeds last spring and this fall. All I got were sets! I wish I had know that planting from seed doesn't product a real onion. I will try trimming, and then drying when they seem to want to stop growing. I will try planting these "sets" later in the year.

Don't be a stranger. You now have lots of experience to share.

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Year two... thanks

Post  edfhinton on 2/16/2014, 4:29 pm

Quiltbea, thanks for all the pointers.  Since I already planted the onion seeds inside, I'll see how that goes again this year.  If it doesn't go better then I will switch next year to buying the sets.  I like the sound of the pot of lettuce right by the door.  The lettuce seeds we bought for the SFG is a head lettuce this year, but I can put some leaf lettuce by the door as well.  How early do you start the seed?  Last year I started the lettuce seed inside in mid-March.  

My peppers went out on 6/1 last year.  I don't remember what our early June was like, but it may be the nighttime temps were not there.  The soil temps may have been an issue as well.  My boxes went in brand new in mid-April with no covers and we didn't have the warmest spring.  This year I plan to cover them as soon as the snow is gone with cold frames to warm the soil and for protection from frost when the early spring crops go in.  I haven't decided yet on which construction approach I want to take on the cold frames.  I figure I'll do some searches on the forum to see what others have done and how it has worked for them.  Right now I am leaning towards the criss-crossed PVC type for the 4x4 boxes and two covered wagon style sections for the 4x10.
Sanderson, thanks as well.  I'm always willing to share my mistakes so maybe someone else can avoid them.  


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Re: Year two

Post  quiltbea on 2/16/2014, 9:11 pm

If I was going to start lettuce indoors, I'd start seeds about 6-7 weeks before last frost since they can transplant outdoors 3 weeks before that last frost.  But they need to be transplanted out very gently so they don't get transplant shock.  

Note:  Lettuce is one of the few crop seeds that can be started indoors under lights.

Two pots of lettuce on 5/28 a few days after being cut back to one inch from soil.

6/14 the same lettuce with new growth.

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Re: Year two

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