Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Midwest Gardening: Mid March 2022

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Midwest Gardening 2022
A GREEN and healthy thing to DO!

Wow, last week we had snow three times and 5 degree windchills. This week, it's birds chirping and 50-60 degrees. Crazy weather for sure. But, we have to get cracking, before Spring is here...that doesn't mean we can't have SNOW--even MAJOR snow,

since it is Chicagoland! 


I'm really late this year on getting my plants started. 

Why?---because we are cutting back on Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Summer squash this year. 

Why? Because if you visit my house--you walk away with a box of a dozen canning jars full of tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, zucchini in tomatoes, summer squash in tomatoes, tomato relish and another half dozen sauces...! Yes, our larder is still full. 

Upside, my family likes them all, and they give the jars back.

So, we are planning on more root vegetables, flowers, and some different things. Who doesn't love fresh produce from the garden?

WE DO!!!

What I have started now: (some of these plants will go to friends)

12 tomato Plants (Better Boy)

12 eggplant (the long skinny Asian)

8 Bell peppers (for Pots on porch and around garden)

8 Carnival-mixed peppers (for Pots on porch and around garden)

8 Serrano peppers (these we will pot, too by themselves--so they don't cross pollinate.)

Instead of starting the above in small seed starters I began them in larger  3-4" pots, with 2-5 seeds in each. These will be thinned to no more than 2 plants to a pot, before they go into the garden. We have actually had good luck with two pepper plants in a 10" pot--they seem to support each other, and they like dry roots and very warm dirt, so no peppers will be in main garden, but in pots.

I also started a couple small pots of Cilantro and Dill, again, I can always thin or separate those. I usually buy my Parsley and some herb plants. I do have Sage, Majoram, Dill (self-sowing) and Chives that come back every year.  I have a small pot of Rosemary in the kitchen and some Thyme, these I will split and move into larger pots on the porch. I have never had much luck sowing Basil, so I usually have at least three pots of that from the nursery or our favorite grocery store.

I planted and then placed the 3-4"pots in these big low totes and covered them with two starter tray covers. I trimmed a side of of one and just overlapped them. Instant indoor greenhouse.

TIP: Covered seed starts do the best in a warm humid location. Watch how much naturally created water occurs during the night. I just tap the tops of the clear plastic and water my plants with the moisture created.

Lots of POTS in two big totes.


I also planted these, they are regular seed starter trays with a mixture of compost soil, peat moss, and a bag of fertilized potting mix. I mixed that all together and have a nice, light, and loose mixture. I added water with 1/2 strength fertilizer in it to dampen them two days ago. From now on I will water with our purified water  for drinking.

In these trays I started some Cleome(Bee Balm?), Alysum, and a few more tomatoes.
These are all seeds from last year which I carefully stored away from heat, dampness, and light. I should be able to tell quickly---if they germinate well.

Tomorrow: I still need a small tray started for Cherry tomatoes, I purchased that seed today. 

In the Greenhouse, I will start a couple of long planters with Lettuce and onions, and a planter of Nasturtiums, (these take awhile to germinate.) The bees love Marigolds and Nasturtiums, so I have those around the garden, where ever we need plants fertilized. Marigolds are heat and drought tolerant---their only enemy seems to be slugs, which will eat young plants.


I stored my mint pots in the greenhouse this year, and hopefully the roots will revive with water. We use the peppermint for natural bug(bees/wasp) deterrents in our entertainment areas. And, it has gotten very expensive to spread these everywhere we lounge and sit. 

A great mosquito deterrent is Lemon Grass---which we use, I have yet to find a cheap source for that, but buy smaller pots and split them. In a month you can't tell it was a $5 pot from a $12 pot, and I get two pots for $5.

When buying your seeds, 

TIP: Remember to buy extra lettuce seeds and radishes for sowing periodically until Fall. Our N. Illinois record heat killed two batches of lettuce last year. I'm going to try and keep them in half-shade this year. We were also so DRY! Onion seeds take a very long time in our short season, so I buy onion sets for green onions.

What I Need to start in the Greenhouse:

I will be starting my giant Elephant Ears and some old Caladium corms, as well as a bag of new Caladiums in planters. These are easy to transplant where you want later in Spring, because they take so LONG to germinate, 6-8 weeks or more.

 Also, starting Coleus in trays with covers, (these also take a long time to germinate).

We don't have water in the greenhouse yet, which will be a pain. If the weather holds above freezing we can hook up the water soon. We also can turn on a heater if need be when temps dip real low. The insulation we put in the greenhouse has kept it pretty warm, but on one side it has sunk down and will have to be redone and a waterproof surface added.


In Chicagoland, N. Illinois-It's too early to start:
Squashes (zucchini, pumpkins, summer squash, winter squashes), even in the greenhouse. Squash and melons grow very fast, we have a few seeds left over from last year, so April 15 is plenty soon enough. They are also very tender when young despite how big they get,  and any frost while in the ground will kill them, as will heavy Spring rains.

This year, I'm trying the wildflower mixtures on one side of the garden where we had tomatoes last year. It's always good to rotate your crops around each year, 
even in a home garden. Wildflower packs are a mix of perennials and annuals. By Fall, I should be able to move any perennials from the mixture to another spot.

I'll be planting tons of Sunflower seeds directly into the ground. (I saved so many heads for seed) and I have 3 new packages of different ones, also.


Swiss chard likes it cooler, so it will be planted in  
afternoon shade in early May.


I have quite assortment of new and old Lettuce seeds.  Spinach likes it cool and will go into the garden with peas--as early as we can end of April, early May.
(I have a friend who grew peas and cucumbers this winter with grow lights and pollinated them by hand--it can be done) 

NOTE: The SoEASY and paper-strip seeds are a rip off---expensive and only poor to fair germination, you are better off scattering those tiny seeds on your own and thinning away excess. (Lettuce-radishes-carrots-beets, spinach-some flowers)


We had poor pickles last year, only enough to eat fresh, and not enough to make pickle relish. It was too hot and dry. We will move them into an afternoon shade spot. These will be started straight in the ground in May when we plant beans.

Note: Even though I have beautiful Hollyhocks, I buy one package each year to keep them going, as they are supposed to self-sow, and they also cross-pollinize and become one color. New seeds refresh the 'pack' if you will of plant colors. Same with my Zinnias, if you use saved seeds eventually everything will be in the same color family as some are dominant genetically.


 Pumpkins, Waltham (Butternut Squash), Zucchini, Summer Squash will be started in the greenhouse in April)


Sunflowers, Beans, Carrots, Parsnips, beets, and some kohlrabi (if we can find seed) will go into the ground as soon as we can turn over and till the soil by early May.


I have lots of 'picked' seeds from Zinnias,  Sunflowers, Marigolds, which I can mass sow(germination is hit or miss on saved seeds). 

I will start trays of new purchased seeds: shorter Marigolds, Bachelor buttons, 4-o'clocks, Peppermint Zinnias, and Green Zinnias, and probably a few more if I find some more seeds? 

Wow---now I need to get plans drawn for where everything will go this year? I'm excited to be cutting back on food, and having lots more room for flowers! 
I'll probably get some Dahlia bulbs for my bigger pots.

And it's always fun to see what makes it from last year in the perennials and the new things I planted last year.
I will update the Planting Logs and also review what worked and didn't last year.

I do know that our Roma tomatoes were a total bust, but all the Tomatoes were great, a bumper crop if you will, so this year we are planting to eat fresh.


For Ukraine

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