The first job is to clean all of the garden tools, sharpen if necessary, cover metal parts with a bit of oil and hang in a safe place in the tool shed or garage.
The next job is to complete the garden records from this growing season – I have a written record of each growing bed, the date it was planted and the variety of vegetable that was planted and whether it was planted from seed or transplants. To this record I add some short notes such as the earliness of the harvest, any particular growing issues, the quality and yield of the harvest and a recommendation to myself as to whether I would grow this variety again.
One other thing that I like to do this time of year is to create a written inventory of all of the garden seeds that I have left over from this year’s garden. I create a record of the vegetable variety, the source of the seed, the year that I bought it and approximately how many seeds are left in the packet.
Why not buy all fresh seed every year?
Many seed packets contain enough seeds to produce many more plants in a year than I could conceivably want or have space to grow, for example I only have room for 12 celery plants, not 50. But I find it extremely wasteful to throw out partial seed packets knowing that seeds will remain viable for many years. And often I will purchase larger packets of seeds than I need for one year, since often for twice the price I’m getting four times the number of seeds.
How long will seed last?
The following are approximate ages at which seed of good initial viability stored under cool dry conditions will still provide a satisfactory rate of germination:
-Beans – 3 years
-Beets and Swiss chard – 4 years
-Cabbage Family – 5 years (includes broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts)
-Corn –1 to 2 years
-Cucumbers – 5 years
-Eggplant – 5 years
-Onions – 1 to 2 years
-Parsnip – 1 to 2 years
-Peas – 3 years
-Peppers – 4 years
-Pumpkin – 4 years
-Squash – 5 years
-Tomatoes – 4 years
This is also the time when I will toss out any seed packets that are clearly ones that I will never plant or ones that I have serious doubts that I will still get a good germination rate. Nothing is more disappointing than preparing the growing space and planting the seeds for a crop that is very time-critical, waiting two weeks for the seed to germinate and then seeing absolutely nothing happen. I’m thinking of vegetables such as squash or pumpkin that I might plant directly in the garden Victoria Day and where I don’t have a lot of leeway if they are to ripen before the first fall frost.
What’s happening in the Hoop House?
On a cloudy cold Monday yesterday at noon the outside temperature was hovering around zero – however in the Hoop House it was a balmy six degrees and even a bit warmer under the blanket of spun fabric.
At these temperatures plants pretty much stop growing but they are able to hold their own against cold temperatures and will be available for harvest for a few more weeks. The following photos show claytonia, mache, mizuna, turnip, lettuce and Bok choi all looking much happier than they would if fully exposed to the elements!
The next photo shows tender spinach seedlings emerging from seed just planted a week ago. Time will tell if they will be hardy enough to survive the winter and give us a great head start in the spring.