Archive | January 24, 2014

Spring Checklist

So its 5 degrees Farenheit outside, and the inclination is to curl up next to a fire with a good book and a cup of coffee.  It may be hard to look through frost covered windows at half a foot of snow and envision Spring, but it will come faster than you think!

There is no time like the present to start working on the Spring checklist.

The first item is to check your planting dates.  Most seeds can be started indoors, and many should be started this way instead of direct sown.  Reach for a calendar and check out your last frost date, count back six weeks, mark the date, and count back eight weeks and mark that date as well.  Our last frost date is May 15, although I find that we are in a micro climate that gives us a little more lee-way.  We often don’t get the late frosts that people get down in the valley only a mile from us.  Calculating back from May 15, We get March 20 for eight weeks and April 3 for six weeks before. 

This gives us 7-8 weeks for ordering seeds, seed starter mixes, seed pots and trays.  Some vegetables we like can be direct sown as soon as the ground can be worked, which may be considerably before the last frost date.  Those include Fava beans and peas.

But there is another consideration – hoop houses.  Each layer of plastic gives us another “ag zone.”   This will give us several additional weeks to the growing season.  If you have access to one of these, adjust your seed starting dates forward.  Don’t let Spring anticipation make you too eager, though.  Handling leggy tomatoes in seed trays is no fun, and don’t necessarily produce earlier.

Start sweet potato cuttings.  I find that organic sweet potatoes from the grocery store are fantastic.  When I buy these for cooking I always watch for one or two with lots of “eyes”  and I look for any signs of sprouting.  For the last several years I have always found some that already show the will to grow.  This is one of the easiest plants to start, and the garden catalogs are charging an arm and a leg for these.  One seed catalog has them priced for $17.95 for a dozen.  WHAT?  Take your sweet potato and place it in a jar of water going almost halfway up the potato.  Within a week or two you should start seeing growth like this:



 When these little branches become about three to four inches long I pull them off and place them in water, where within days they will put out roots.  The potato will continue pushing out additional sprouts.  I suggest starting this soon since it is a lengthier process and the cuttings do well in water until planting time.  Do not plant these delicate plants in the ground until after the last frost date.

Check your filters.  This one is not really about gardening, but is necessary.  Many homeowners skip this step and it makes your indoor heating systems much less efficient.  A clean filter pays for itself. 

Start your wine kit.  Yes, this is about gardening!  It is so nice to settle into a lawnchair after a long day of gardening with a cool Riesling.  You can make your own very affordably with wine kits.  We get ours from and one of our favorites is the Riesling Kit.  It costs around $40.00 and you can even get it “subscribe and save” for less.  It makes 25-28 bottles for a very affordable $1.60 PER BOTTLE!  It tastes lovely – just follow the instructions closely.  We ferment ours a little longer for a drier finish.  While the kit says “four weeks”  you’ll want to let the bottled wine sit a few months in your basement or dirt cellar to age a bit.  Here, we have just started a batch and the fermentation process is starting to bubble nicely.


Check your state laws.  It is legal to make small amounts of wine for personal use in most states.   In West Virginia, the Law  is very close to the Federal Law, allowing up to 200 gallons for a household with two adults.  We make only 5-10 gallons per year – 200 seems like a lot!