After a marathon spring, I’ve finally finished planting seedlings.
Spring in Southern California has been really, really cool, which means that seedlings have lagged. Even at more than 8 weeks, some still weren’t as big and sturdy as I’d have liked, but I really felt they needed to get in the ground. Sometimes getting them into a volume of soil makes the difference between poking along and zooming. Hopefully that will be the case.
I’m playing with the silver mulch that Leslie turned me on to. It will be interesting to see how it works. It added about 30 percent to the time it took to plant, but part of that was learning to work with the stuff.
And I’m really proud of myself, I actually have enough room to plant everything. I usually start so many seedlings that I’m cramming them into every nook and cranny. It’s nice to have enough space to poke some extra squash and cucumber seeds into the ground here and there. Not to mention some extra basil! —Nan Sterman, Encinitas, California
Great discussion question, Andres! At one time I would get a little miffed when volunteer seedlings would outdo my best efforts. I’ve learned to take advantage of it and consider it a blessing. I figure, if God plants something in my garden, who am I to resent it?
Most of things that come up on their own are ones that are finicky. Arugula is one such for me. When I sow arugula for harvest, it will turn serrated and old-looking if it’s too cold or too hot. Too much rain makes spots on the leaves. The volunteers seem to generally be happy.
Over the years I’ve grown fava beans in every area of the garden. They’re likely to pop up even before I start sowing. Sometimes the volunteers give me the first crop of the spring. Other times they just make a little nitrogen generator wherever they are. I don’t argue!
In winter and spring I like to leave mustards and other greens to flower for beneficial insect habitat. Some plants go to seed, so the next year I find myself wandering the garden and harvesting “strays.”
A few weeks ago I moved about 20 squash plants from where they volunteered in the potato bed to a row where I’d run short of melon plants. The relocated plants are looking good and just beginning to set fruit—ahead of most of my carefully sown squash. Most of the crossbred summer squash will make big, healthy plants, probably the result of hybrid vigor. So I grow these out and harvest them much like I would with a purchased hybrid. I just don’t save seed from the crossbreds—too many torpedo-shaped or other very odd gourd-like fruits happened when I did that.
If I was to give a short answer, I’ve learned to accept my own shortcomings and take advantage of the help I get along the way. —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California
I got all the leaves raked and the test beds cleaned out just before the rains started. Last week we were visited by “The Pineapple Express,” a rain cloud stretching from Hawaii through the southwest. Most of you have snow—I am so jealous.
I moved some of my newly planted seedlings out of the greenhouse to enjoy these many drizzly days (above). I expect to start transplanting most of them in a couple of weeks. As soon a the rain stops, I’ll finish putting the pea seedlings into the rooftop garden on my chicken coop and in this narrow bed in front of the guesthouse. The other seedlings will go into my new front-yard garden.
Four of my 10 backyard test beds are now planted to overflowing with ‘Inchellium Red’ garlic and I hope to be a source for local seed garlic next year. It grows huge here in my climate and soil, and I couldn’t control myself—I just had to take the plunge into garlic. It also repels vampires. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada