Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Mid April - delayed plans but new hopes

Peas and Broad beans survive a freeze down to -16ºC under a cold frame
This last week was the coldest temperatures of the winter. But nevertheless the broad beans and peas survived well! Although some broad beans seedlings died; these were the ones that were just at the edge of the plastic sheet covering them during the hard freeze. They froze hard and therefore died. But they were 3 out of 30 seedlings. The remaining stood a constant -3ºC and frozen soil, but not deeply.

The next ones to be moved outdoors
Now that the worst seems over, and the spring temperatures returned (although with night frosts still down to -6ºC) I decided to change the coldframe and cover a new area of the garden, where I planted some garlic (and which apparently survived the deep freeze). I will now plant the remaining of the garlic and also multiplier onions, and possibly some parsley, lettuce, leeks, broccoli and kale. They were seedlings but in principle should stand frost and snows under the cold frame. I plan to let them there between now and early May.

Most of the spring onions seedlings, that were outdoors, died. I had planted them before the deep freeze; they were 10, only 4 survived but damaged. They were too small and only covered by a light fleece. I guess they would do much better under the cold frame. My plan for them is to let them grow more indoors, and then transplant them outdoors next month, together with some larger broccoli and other vegetables.

Potatoes are doing fine even with significant frost
To my surprise, some potatoes which were sprouting and were set outdoors, are fine even after these last 3 days of night frosts. They even stood some snow, but they were next to a wall and covered with plastic. Some shots showed some frost damaged but this was little.

Cereals for self-sufficiency: delayed plans
About half of the rye I have been diligently transplanting outdoors died during the several freezes of the last two months, especially the one in more exposed areas. In my experience, it was not only the freezes but also the extreme wind that created very dried soil. I still only have a little more than 2 m2, far from the desired 10m2. Several problems occurred recently: first the grain I bought in a store is all old (near expire date) and therefore only about 5% of the grain is viable seed. I haven't found fresh grain nearby where I live. Second, I tried ordering grain through the internet but most companies do not ship to Iceland, or they charge large sending costs. Third and worst, much grain seed I have ordered online is stuck at the customs. It seems I cannot grow enough grain this year.

However I had a few seeds of hulless oats and perennial rye and I did a few trays of these. Not enough for the desired grain area but enough for perhaps an extra 2 m2. Because young grain is tolerant of frost but sensitive to freezes, I am waiting one or two more weeks with the trays indoors.

Quinoa and amaranth
Unfortunately quinoa and amaranth are a little complicate. When just sown, seedlings rapidly emerge but are sensitive to temperature, light and moisture changes, or aphids. I often had sudden losses of many seedlings without reason other than root rot or insufficient bright light. I tried quinoa seedlings outside but they were also damaged by frost; however the plant seems very hardy when acclimatized and big enough. I am sowing more quinoa and amaranth today.

Beans indoors
I have peas, cowpeas and dried beans indoors. The cowpeas were greatly damaged by aphids and I lost most plants I have been trying, but peas are giving their first pods yet also suffered by excessive moisture and root rot. Both suffer in greenhouse conditions and prefer outdoors, but the cowpeas are obviously a warm weather crop. I have also a large box with red beans and they are forming many pods now! We also are excited with our growing plants of pigeon peas, lima beans and winged beans. Overall, with the remaining broad beans and peas outdoors, I should have enough pulses to eat for a month or two.

Alternative roots
I am growing a lot of tiger nut tubers. They are easy to grow if temperature is warm but moisture is kept on the low side. Oca strongly dislikes the greenhouse. I try often to freshen plants outdoors. It is tolerant of chilly weather but I haven't tested by frost, which probably would damage the plant. I also have a pair of rampant jicama growing indoors (a tasty root is expected by the summer, after 9 months of growth).

Corn, sesame, sunflower, melon, squash
I have small plants of these. I had a few losses of sunflower when a slug ate some seedlings indoors. Sesame is also another of those sensitive to excessive moisture. I plan to plant all these crops outdoors, by June, when frost is gone and plants are big enough.

Failures and hopes
Besides this I have been unlucky trying to grow luffa, okra and snake gourd from seed.  Not only the seed can be tricky to germinate, but seedlings grow intially slowly and are rather sensitive to light, temperature and moisture. Another thing that I have tried and also failed were sweet potatoes and peanuts. The sweet potato died over the winter, and a new root is still yet to sprout. The peanuts also got stuck in their growth a couple of months ago and I haven't tried new seeds since then.

Yes, there are a lot of failures and delays, but also a lot of hopes and wishes. I plan going larger this summer on turnips, beets and other roots like scorzonera. Roots can feed you well, so I want to include them in our self-sufficiency experiment.

Next post we will speak in more peculiar crops we have been growing. Stay tuned for updates!

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