Seed starting and soil testing: a Master Gardener outlines his spring gardening progress

In mid-February, I started my Gypsy, Monty, and Green Magic broccoli, Snow Crown cauliflower, Lacinato kale, several types of lettuce, and some Big Blue salvia.

Italian flat-leaf parsley was started in mid-January. Most of these transplants will be planted in the garden or containers in the first week of April after hardening off for at least a week in my cold frame. My pre-sprouted snap peas will be planted in late March. Planting dates for central Maryland can be found here on the Home and Garden Information Center website.

Kent's seedlings

In early March, I will be making a trip into Baltimore to get some other seeds for Sugar Ann snap peas, Jade string beans, and a couple of other things. In late March, I will be planting some seed potatoes in containers, just to see what the yield is. On March 27th, seven to eight weeks before the spring plant out date of mid-May, I will be planting Galine eggplant and several different types of peppers.

In previous years, I’ve planted tomatoes six weeks prior to my plant out date, but they have been leggy. This year, I’m planting them on April 10 for planting in the garden and containers on May 15.

My latest soil test, done in May of 2019, says to incorporate one pound of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet. Only N is required since the beds contain the optimum amount of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) and are at the correct pH.

To determine what fertilizer needs to be added to my beds which are 32 or 40 square feet, I will have to convert this recommendation to determine the amount of urea (46-0-0) to apply to my beds. This is fairly simple to do, using the following equation. Amount of N/.46 (% of N in urea) x beds size/1000 square feet. This yields the following: 2.17 pounds of urea x 0.032 for a 32 square foot bed equals .069 pounds of urea or 1.1 ounces. I guess I’ll have to get out my kitchen scale.

Alternatively, the University of Delaware suggested 2.5 pounds per 1000 square feet or 2.5 x .032 = 1.28 ounces of urea. This calculation works for almost all recommendations from soil test labs. However, if in doubt, you can always Ask a Gardening Expert at HGIC.

By Kent Phillips, University of Maryland Extension, Howard County Master Gardener

Low tunnels

So, I thought I would bring you up to date on my low tunnel experiment.  I didn’t get a chance to put a low tunnel to work in my garden, but did get one installed in Mary’s raised bed on Saturday March 15.  The bed we used was her 4 by 12 foot bed which is bordered by 2 by 12s.  The bed is filled with manufactured soil (50% leafgro-50% soil) and fertilized with 10-10-10 (one pound) to add .2 lbs. of N per 100 square feet.  This picture shows the partially planted bed.

Plantings in the bed are Packman broccoli, tatsoi, Tuscan kale, Red Sails and Butter Crunch lettuce.  The full planted bed looks like this.  
The PVC hoops are spaced about two and a half feet apart and tied together using another piece of PVC pipe at the top of the hoops and either tied or taped in place.  The plastic cover is 4 mil plastic purchased at a local hardware store.  It was stretched over the hoops, wrapped around some 1 by 2 the furring strips and attached to the 2 by 12s using screws.  The ends were loose so that the low tunnel could be ventilated, less it build up to much heat and cook the plants.
This last picture shows the impact of 9 inches of Howard County snow, we received Sunday night and Monday.  Mary told me that late in the day she had to open up one end of the low tunnel because the interior had a lot of condensation on the plastic sheeting.  Hopefully these plants will like their new environment and provide some early April and May greens and broccoli for Mary’s table.  The only thing left to do is to install the drip irrigation since plastic isn’t permeable. 
I’ll update this experiment with low tunnels, but Mary should have great success as long as she remember to ventilate it on sunny days.