Four weeks to last frost, and a follow up

As did many in Wisconsin (and apparently many places in the US) we had snow this week, blarg!  Even worse was waking up to a 19 degree morning, with a high of 37, which is the normal low temperature for this time of year.  But really, somehow, in about 4 weeks our chances of frost will be nearly over.  Right?  RIGHT?

There is not too much on the indoor seeding front for me at this stage. I started a few more flowers:  nasturtiums, marigolds, and some cosmos and zinnias.  You can start a few last vegetables at this point, such as cucumbers or squash, but I usually find these all do better seeded directly in the ground, and don't seem worth the effort of babysitting inside.  If you do want to get a jump start on these guys, I would use compostable pots or newspaper for seeding, so these can go directly into the ground with less transplant shock. 

There are a couple of good indoor chores this time of year:

Plant Inventories:  Make a list of what you've started and tick off those healthy seedlings.  This is where I discover my Ancho peppers did not germinate at ALL, and that I planted way too many Sungold tomatoes (again).  Make notes if you have to pick up any plants that failed, or better yet trade emails with a gardener friend and swap! (Anybody have any Ancho peppers??)

Pot up:  If the season is running cold (like it is) I will pot up tomatoes at this stage so they can wait a bit more happily for warm planting weather.  Select your favorite strong seedlings, and plant them deeply in a larger pot.  Burying the bottom of the stem makes them even sturdier and roots will grow right out of the stem too.

Fertilize:  I am not a huge proponent of fertilizing, I generally rely on my overall soil health and add a ton of compost to my garden beds and leave it at that.  But, I do have a small bag of organic fertilizer I use for container plantings and at this time of year.  Fertilizing too early seems to make seedlings leggy and overgrown, but this late in the stage they can sometimes get a boost from a light feeding a few weeks before being planted out. I mix in some granulated fertilizer (or compost) when I pot up tomatoes, or make a compost tea (or just dissolve a little organic fertilizer) for watering. 

But, the best part of this stage of pre-frost preparation is getting out in your real outdoor garden (no lights, no flats, phew!).  I seeded peas a week or so ago, and this is a fine time to sow some early lettuce or spinach if you have a dry bed ready to plant.  This weekend I'm transplanting onions.  Since I had mentioned my method way  back in February, I thought I'd follow up with a few pictures of those seedlings.

Look, no snow!  And a chicken! Here are the flats, a nice healthy size for planting. 

 Popped out of the cell pack, you can see all the roots.       

I had watered these a few hours prior to planting, and could easily separate the seedlings.  Gently grasp just about the teeny root bulb and peel them off one at a time.  They look tangled but really they slide apart very easily.   These beds were prepped in the fall, all I did was rake off excess leaves and plant right through the leftover mulch.  No digging required.  I mass plant onions in beds about 4-6 inches apart.  You can plant even closer and harvest in-betweens as scallions early in the season.  Even though onions are quite tolerant of cold I cover these earliest planted beds with row cover, as I think it gives them a little heat boost and keeps out critters (mainly my dog, who has forgotten the difference between paths and beds over the winter).

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