Saturday, February 16, 2008

February Gardening Chores

February is half gone, but the weather hasn't been agreeable for much gardening (and I've been doing a ton of computer work), but today it's 61 degrees F. so we decided to get out there and get dirty. Jay took the little one to the Famer's Co-op this morning to buy onions and cabbage plants and a 50 lb sack of corn to crush for the chickens. Mama sure did need that break.

February is a good time for seed shopping, for the best choices and availability. We live in Zone 7 and February is a good month to plant onion sets to ensure big, hearty plants at harvest. Last year we didn't plant our onion sets until April and they never got bigger than 2.5 inches in diameter.

Good onion set info from the Univeristy of Illinois Extension: "Purchase firm, dormant sets early - before they begin growth in heated salesrooms. Store sets in a cool, dry, dark environment if planting must be delayed after purchase. Divide the sets into two sizes before planting. Large sets (larger than a dime in diameter) are best used for green onions. If allowed to grow, these sets may "bolt" and form flower stalks. The small sets (smaller than a dime in diameter) produce the best bulbs for large, dry onions; and they usually do not "bolt." Extremely cold weather during early season growth also may condition onions from sets to flower.

Round onion sets produce flat onions; elongated or torpedo-shaped sets mature into round onions. Most gardeners prefer white sets for green onions, although red or yellow sets are also acceptable."

We're not planting our onion sets until next week after the moon starts to wane. Below ground, or root, vegetables like onions, carrots and potatoes should be planted during this time, preferably on a "good" moon sign day. Vegetables that grow above the ground should be planted on days when the moon is waxing, or "growing". More on this subject later.

So today we planted one bed of eight Early Jersey Wakefield cabbages (see below, before and after only .. I would have taken pictures of the actual planting, but I did it myself and didn't have a "photographer"). Yes, it's early for planting, and we may have to cover the little plants a night or two before it's over, but that's ok. We turned a 4' x 8' bed with cow manure and some dirt my father-in-law dozed up from the bottom of the pond this summer (mmm mmm good soil) while it was dry (drought, drought, drought). A good watering and a thick mulch of leaves, and I think the cabbages will approve.

We've weeded or turned all of the best and will be pulling up the bed boards as another step toward Naturally Grown Certification. I cringe to think of it, but it must be done. The goal is to have every bed in the garden framed with mountain stone by the end of the summer. My chiropractor will love it.

I've started flat leaf parsley and lavender indoors and will be starting many others in the coming weeks. I'm waiting for the chickweed in my yard to get just a tad bigger, and then I'll have a major harvest, and I'm ordering medicinal herb seeds Monday, woo hoo!!

Next week I'll be wild herb hunting, weather permitting.

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