Handy schedule for starting seeds, transplanting seedlings

Seedlings in re-purposed toilet paper rolls.

There must be a converse to the saying, “Be careful what you wish for…” and if there is, I’ve realized it. I wrote, a couple of weeks ago, about the so-called hardy orange, Poncirus trifoliata, which, with warmer winters, now seems hardy in my garden. I’m looking forward to fragrant flowers and “oranges” that have a citrusy smell, even if they are too tart and bitter to eat.

Last time, I also mentioned one especially striking variety of hardy orange, Flying Dragon. This variety has the thorny evergreen stems of the species, but the stems wriggle and squirm and twist every which way. It’s very ornamental, and also, like the species, will have fragrant flowers and orange fruits to come.

I saw a Flying Dragon sitting in a pot at a consulting job last week and mentioned my affection for the plant. “Take it,” I was told, “it’s an extra.” I did, and am now the proud owner of a three-foot-high Flying Dragon.

You can imagine how congested Flying Dragon could become, with all the twisting stems and (I forgot to mention) thorns that curl backwards. Those ornamental assets made the pruning, which my new plant needed, all the more difficult. I hope, in years to come, that the saying that I associate with this plant won’t become, “Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true.”

The march of vegetables is on its way. With decades of growing vegetables under my belt, I have a schedule for sowing seeds indoors, transplanting seedlings and sowing seeds outdoors. It’s not a schedule writ in stone, though. Each year it gets tweaked as my experience grows, and to account for recent years’ earlier-warming springs.

My schedule is applicable to other gardens with an average date of the last killing frost in spring of mid-May. It’s even applicable to gardens elsewhere, by merely shifting sowing and transplanting dates forward or backward by the same number of weeks that they differ locally from the May 15 last-frost date at my farmden.

Here, then, is my schedule for sowing and planting some vegetables (after June 1, all plantings are outdoors):

February 1: onion, leek and celery seeded indoors

March 1: broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, eggplant and pepper seeded indoors

April 1: tomato seeded indoors; peas seeded outdoors

April 15: onion, leek, broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts seedlings transplanted outdoors; carrots, turnips and beets seeded outdoors

May 1: cucumber and melon seeded indoors; celery seedlings transplanted outdoors

May 15: beans, squash, okra and corn seeded outdoors

May 21: tomato, pepper and eggplant seedlings transplanted outdoors

June 1: cucumber and melon seedlings transplanted outdoors; second seeding of corn

June 15: broccoli, cabbage and kale seeded for autumn harvest; second seeding of cucumber and bush beans; third seeding of corn

July 1: second seeding of summer squash; fourth seeding of corn

July 15: third seeding of bush beans

The nice thing about having this schedule is that the weather no longer pushes me around. A warm sunny day in the middle of April might tempt me to plant corn – except if I look at my schedule. The year before last, the last spring frost was in early April, so corn could in fact have been planted earlier. Last year provided greater temptation, with a spate of 70-degree temperatures in March. The mercury plummeted in mid-May, which would have snuffed out the corn sprouts.

I have a similar schedule for the autumn and winter garden. But no need to look at that right now.

Shoots terminating in branching stems with round buds hinted at flowers to come; and now, after a long, slow buildup, flowers have finally opened on my poet’s jasmine (Jasminium officinale). For many years this plant has disappointed me with no or paltry flowering – to the extent that I threatened to walk it to the compost pile if this year was a no-show. That threat was made easier, because I now have another kind of “jasmine” (Cestrum nocturnum) that blooms more freely (with a different aroma).

The threat evidently was effective. At least that’s my only explanation, because I can’t put my finger on exactly what I did differently this year. Sun, water and fertilizer kept the plant growing well through summer, and some thirst and a spell of exposure to near-freezing temperatures in autumn were supposed to make for abundant blooms. Or so I’ve been told. But I’ve heard that and done all that for years.

Then again, last year I did pinch out the tips of growing shoots through summer – something that I haven’t done previously. Perhaps that’s what brought on the better (but still hardly abundant) flowers.

So the plant gets pinched, and gets to live – for at least another year.

Any gardening questions? E-mail them to me at garden@leereich.com and I’ll try answering them directly or in this column. Come visit my garden at www.leereich.blogspot.com. For more on local homes and gardens, go to Ulster Publishing’s homehudsonvalley.com.

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