I know most folks wouldn’t call this “early” spring, but here in the mountains it’s still early. Because our average last frost date is sometime around June 10-15, I need to be careful about what is planted outdoors prior to that time. In the past I have started a few beds of veggies around May 15, I’ve kept them covered through at least the end of May, with the ability to throw on some frost cloth up to the end of June. (In 2018 and 2019, the last day of 32° or less were 6/25 and 6/23, respectively.)
This year, we had such nice weather the last week of April, including warmer nights, I decided to go ahead and transplant the things that were ready in the greenhouse. I was glad I’d started a few things plenty early! So, the last week of April I transplanted some broccoli, broccolini, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, kale, lettuce & spinach. All were covered nightly with the plastic we have prepared to roll down over our hoops at night, and plastic bottles filled with water are placed around the plants for added warmth. They soak up the sun and heat up during the day to release that heat to their nearby plants at night. I also sowed some peas & parsnip seeds in the ground, and kept those beds covered with frost cloth.
All those things were doing nicely, UNTIL…. MICE got into one of the beds, then three nights in a row the temperature dove to 18-21°.
This is the first year we’ve ever experienced a problem with mice in the garden. We always knew that mice would be the only thing that might get through our defenses..it just hadn’t happened. On May 5 I went out to discover that 2 cabbages and 2 broccoli had all been chewed pretty well. Guessing it may have been mice, we put out a trap the next night we didn’t catch one, but the trap had been sprung. The third broccoli in that bed, and the two cauliflower were chewed. The following night sure enough, one squashed mouse was found in the morning. We began setting two traps nightly and set out some D-Con bait traps as well. I cut out the bottoms of some plastic bottles and began setting them over the plants at night. The mice also ate some lettuce & bok choy, but not the spinach or the chinese cabbage. Surprisingly, one morning I found that they’d eaten several onions in another area at the far side of the garden. I’d read that mice did not like onions–not so! At this time, traps are still set nightly with an occasional casualty, and the D-Con seems to have sent a few mice to our ducks’ pool looking for a drink of water and finding a watery drowning instead. It appears that the cabbage and broccoli survived their torture; however, the two cauliflower were too well chewed to come back. Now, for all things transplanted to the perimeter beds, they are covered with bottles, which seems to work well both to keep out the mice and the cold.
As mentioned previously, we had a few particularly frigid nights. All the plants seem to have survived, but lost a couple of their earliest leaves and were probably set back some. The plastic coverings and water bottles can only do so much to keep out the cold. Perhaps some added frost cloth directly atop the plants would have helped on those coldest nights. It didn’t help that I forgot to cover one of the brussels sprouts on one of those nights! It seems to have survived, but is not near as healthy as those that were covered. All the spinach and lettuces handled the cold just fine.
PLANTS IN THE GROUND
In addition to the things planted the end of April, I gradually have added potatoes, onions, beet transplants and a second round of most of the brassicas and peas. Please read more about the ONIONS & GARLIC started in the fall that didn’t make it and those that did. I have a new onion experiment for 2020.
Since none of our BERRIES did well, all have been removed. Those beds are now filled with potatoes, since they also like acidic soil. That left we with more bed space for other things where I had originally planned to put the potatoes, so we will be enjoying more of what grows well: brassicas (broccoli, broccolini, cabbage, cauliflower and for the first time brussels sprouts), carrots, peas. I tried some BROCCOLINI in the greenhouse over the winter, and it was a hit! I now have quite a bit of it started outdoors for a continual harvest for as long as it lasts.
PLANTS NOT IN THE GROUND
Started in the greenhouse but not yet ready for transplant are winter squash, summer squash, melon, celery, basil, cilantro, caraway, dill. I will sow carrot seeds this week and beans maybe the first week of June. All these things require more warmth and will wait until it’s safe. The greenhouse keeps our tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and more squash in the summer months.