Posts tagged cabbage

Warning of the Three Frozen Kings

    When it was sunny and 80 degrees for a brief day or two in April,  I heard from several people asking if they should go ahead and plant their gardens. In Iowa, that’s fine for many vegetables, such as cabbage, peas and potatoes, but I warned them to hold off on the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other tender plants. Those plants might actually have been OK during the past couple weeks, as it’s stayed fairly warm, so gardeners who took a gamble will be ahead of the game. But old-school gardeners often heed the warning of the Three Kings.     

   This is something that I ran last year on this blog,  but as it’s often asked, here’s what I’ve been told about the legend of the Three Kings:

    The Three Kings, or Three Frozen Kings, is a Czech legend that serves as a warning to protect tender plants against a possible late frost.  In one of various forms, the story says the three kings or saints (Pankrac on May 12, Servac on May 13 and Bonifac on May 14) were frozen when the temperature dropped while they were fishing at sea.

    On May 15, St. Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water to thaw out the three frozen kings.

    Since Czech immigrants found Iowa similar to their home country, those traditions carried over, and, whether or not the story makes sense,  it  seems sensible in many years to heed the Three Kings warning.

     Knowing the last average frost date for your area can also help. That date can vary, however, depending on the source. I’ve seen that in northeast Iowa, the last average frost date is May 10. East-central Iowa is April 30, and southeast Iowa is April 20. Those might seem early in some years, but look accurate for 2009.

    A U.S. Climatography report placed northern Iowa, around Decorah, with a last average frost date of May 26; central Iowa, around the Cedar Rapids area, at May 13 and southern Iowa, around Ottumwa, at May 3.

    Climatologists say the average can vary,  even within the same county. The last frost date might be a week later in low-lying areas or a week earlier on hilltops.  Because the frost date is only an average, your safest bet might be to heed the Three Kings warning and wait until May 15 to set out those tender plants.

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Stop the killing! Take care of those seedlings

You’ve planted your seeds indoors, waited for them to sprout and one day find a container of tiny, droopy plants.

    What went wrong?

    Damping-off could be responsible for the collapse and death of your seedlings.

    The gardening experts at Iowa State University Extension note that damping-off is caused by several different fungi. Environmental conditions usually associated with damping-off are poorly drained potting soil and overwatering.

    Damping-off can be prevented by using clean containers, a sterile, well-drained potting mix and by following good cultural practices.  Previously used containers should be washed in soapy water, then disinfected by dipping in a solution containing one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Flower and vegetable seeds need an evenly moist potting mix for good germination.  After germination, allow the potting soil to dry somewhat between waterings. 

 

   I’m getting a later than usual start on my seedlings, having just planted my first round today. The earliest I’ve planted seeds indoors was in late January – I had flowers blooming by the end of March. Some plants, of course, need more time to grow than others. The ISU gardening experts also offer this reminder on the starting times for seeds: The crop time (number of weeks from sowing to planting outdoors) for several popular flowers and vegetables are as follows: 10 to 12 weeks – geranium; eight to 10 weeks – petunia and impatiens; six to eight weeks – marigold, pepper, and eggplant; five to seven weeks – tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; three to four weeks – cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon and squash.  Always check the seed packet if unsure of the correct sowing date. 

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Starting seedlings

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

It’s February.   It’s nearly spring.  Never mind that the ground hog saw his shadow, now is the time for all gardeners to commence gardening preparations. 

Following is one of the most popular questions that Master Gardener volunteers are asked on the Hortline:  when should I start seeds indoors for transplanting to the garden?  The often used phrase “it depends” applies to this question.  It does depend on what plants you intend to grow.  The number of weeks from first sowing the seeds to planting outdoors may vary from flowers to vegetables.  Seed start time for some popular ones are as follows:  Geraniums—10 to 12 weeks; Petunia and Impatiens—8 to 10 weeks; Marigold, pepper and eggplant—6 to 8 weeks; Tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower—5 to 7 weeks; Cucumbers, watermelon, muskmelon and squash—3 to 4 weeks.

If sowing seeds in flats or trays, fill the container to within one inch of the top with your planting medium.  Firm it down, water thoroughly, let it drain.  Fine seeds are sown on the surface and lightly pressed into the medium.  All other seeds are to be covered with planting medium to a thickness of one to two times of the seeds diameter.  Then water from the bottom (submerge) until the topsoil is wet then allow to drain.  Or you can water from the top with a bulb syringe.  Keep the soil uniformly moist, cover the container with a clear plastic food wrap. 

Always purchase good quality seeds.  Use clean containers.  Provide ample space for the seedlings to grow.  Air circulation should be good.  Follow planting directions on the packages and fertilize accordingly.  Adjustment to the out of doors should be a gradual process:  spending some time on the deck or porch before transplanting to beds would be wise.

My daughter and two grandkids are excited to plant their second garden.  Maybe we’ll try planting seeds and see if they get as excited as I do when sprouts commence popping through the soil.

 

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Just getting started

Maybe it’s the snow shoveling that’s occupied my time every weekend, (or has it been every other day?) but I’m not as prepared for spring as I normally would be. By this time last year, I had started cabbage and kale seeds indoors and several flowers that are either slow to germinate or need 12 weeks of growth before being transplanted outside. I also give my peas a start inside. They can tolerate almost any outdoor temperature, but by germinating them indoors, you can get a jump on the season when the snow finally clears enough to plant them outside.

Now that we’ve had to spring ahead for daylight saving time, will it actually feel like spring? I know there’s some controversy surrounding the change – that it disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm, doesn’t really save energy, etc. But as far as an extra hour of daylight at night, I’ll take it! In fact, I’d prefer to keep daylight saving time year-round. Even though we “gain” an extra hour of sleep in the fall, I’d prefer the tradeoff of keeping that daylight into the night. When you leave work and it’s already dark outside, it gets a bit gloomy. Plus, if there was no change in the fall and in the spring, wouldn’t that keep our natural sleep rhythms in order better than forcing an adjustment every time we have to switch our clocks??

While many of us are tired of the cold and the snow,  I think nature prefers a constant snow cover over a winter that goes through cycles of thawing and freezing, as we’ve seen in recent years. The snow acts as a good insulation for plants and prevents those eager beavers who want to clear out their beds on the first warm day of February or March from doing so. Now, let’s hope that our warmup (it will come, right??) is a gradual one and we don’t jump straight into summer.

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