(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, April 25, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
Most vegetable transplant starts can not handle any frost, so it is important to know the average frost-free date in your area. In Sitka we can get frost right up to about May 15, but you can transplant out a full month earlier if you utilize a product called a “floating row cover.”
Our local stores carry several brands of row cover in varying sizes. It is basically a light-spun polyester type of fabric through which water and light can penetrate. A floating row cover protects plants from frost and raises the temperature of the bed approximately 10 degrees. It can lie directly on the plants or be held aloft with hoops, but it needs to be weighted down around the edges to keep it from blowing away. Here at the Down To Earth U-Pick Garden, I use a seine net to hold it down. But you can use rocks or milk jugs full of water if you don’t have netting.
It would be best to leave this cover on your beds all season, but I take mine off about July 15 or when the vegetables are ready to pick, whichever comes first.
As a general rule I transplant the following vegetables outdoors in mid-April — broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, kale and beets. And I sow these seeds directly into the soil — radishes, potatoes, turnips, carrots and peas. In May, I transplant — celery, leeks, fennel, sunflowers, herbs, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes; and I sow beans directly into the soil.
The first step in the transplanting process is to “harden off” your starts. This is a very tedious task which I hate, but it really is a must. Hardening off is a term used to describe the process of gradually getting the transplants used to the outside environment. During this process you carry your flats of transplants outdoors into a sunny sheltered area for several hours and then bring them back inside. Each day you extend the time they spend outdoors until they are ready to go out permanently. This reduces the shock to the baby vegetables.
When transplanting make a shallow dish-shaped depression in the bed and then dig a hole for the start right in the center. Carefully remove the start from its pot without handling the fragile stem (the plant can grow another leaf but it can’t grow another stem). Put it in the hole and lightly firm the soil around it. The shallow depression should remain to help catch water. You can bury most plants up to their first true leaves, but be sure not to cover the growing center of the plant with soil. Water lightly about three times that first day and at least once a day for the next two days if it doesn’t rain. Watering with a vitamin B solution is said to help starts deal with this stressful process. In a week or so your transplants should recover from the move and start showing signs of growth.
Next week’s column — Everything I know about carrots.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241