Gardeners have always held an ill-advised optimism about weather. A spring warm spell, like the one a week or two ago, gets us outside throwing dirt around and planting things no sensible gardener would plant. I have been at this for a long time, but have not yet succumbed to the sensible gardener syndrome. If I’m in a t-shirt, I’m planting something.
Fortunately there are things that can be planted even if the weather decides to turn ornery, things underground for instance. And it just so happens that my favorite crop is potatoes. I’m growing three different kinds this year: Yukon Gold, German Butterball, and fingerlings. Some years I include Gold Rush, but I didn’t find any this year.
In fact I already had some potatoes growing. No one says they’re hardy, but they seem to be. I never get all of them when I dig in the late summer, and those left behind, at least some of them, grow in spring. A late light frost doesn’t seem to bother them, so I have never been concerned about planting them early.
Dahlias are the same, only different. Yes, they are planted underground with the crown just below the surface. Since most have sprouted in storage, there is likely to be some foliage above ground, at planting or very soon, and it is not frost-proof. Doesn’t even particularly like cold temperatures.
I used all the willpower I could muster and refrained from planting them in the ground, but they wanted to grow. So I potted up two or three dozen in gallon pots from the pile of pots in the garden shed. When nights are expected to drop into the 30s, I cover them with a sheet. The heat the ground has absorbed during the day keeps them warmer. Soon enough, maybe too soon, I’ll plant them in the ground.
I scattered some lettuce seeds, several different types. There are mixes and there are program mixes. Mixes are whatever is left over at the end of the packing line, if you’re lucky, or more often things not distinguished enough to sell. This is true with many seeds and, worse, bulbs. If you see a package of assorted tulips or dahlias or tuberous begonias, walk on by. But a program mix is specially selected varieties, commonly named varieties, with different colors that blend together.
I have a program mix of lettuce seeds, several types in different leaf form and colors. I did not buy this off the rack. I got it out of the bottom of the ammo box I use to store seeds. Lettuce seeds, carefully stored, can remain viable for several years. Packs of seed not properly sealed back up spill seeds. Thus my program mix in the bottom of the ammo box.
Lettuce is so easy. I just scatter the seeds, fairly thick, on the soil surface. I brush the palm of my hand over it, lightly roughing the seeds in. Watering will settle them, and they’ll be up quickly even if the days are cool.
All those are good tasks even if somewhere in your heart you know another cold snap will come. But, OK, you know I did more, something I shouldn’t. I found a Sunsugar tomato in a nursery. It is a yellow/orange cherry tomato, very sweet but still tomato tasting. You too seldom see those retail, and I grabbed it, though I knew it was too early.
Figured I’d pot it up while it was waiting for more reliable weather. But you know I couldn’t wait. It went into the ground on a 65 degree day, followed by several days in the 40s. I had it protected and it is doing just fine, despite my foolishness. But you know I couldn’t help it. Nor probably can you.