Tuesday, April 5, 2011
It's not easy being green
So it turns out that growing food on the roof of a Philadelphia rowhouse in March may be tougher than I thought. while all the experts agreed that it was time to put out the snow peas, spinach, and some other cold weather seeds and seedlings in March, things got off to a rough start on the rooftop.
The spinach was supposed to take 5-10 days to germinate, but it was nearly three weeks before I started to see any growth. And while the snow peas peeked up through the soil rather quickly, all they did was peek. The plants seemed to hold steady for a few weeks with little to no growth.
My best guess is that it's awfully cold and windy on the rooftop and there's not a lot of protection. I moved the plants closer to a wall, which may or may not be helping. This week has been very warm, which I'm pretty sure is the biggest reason things are starting to look a bit greener on the rooftop. The snow pea plants are starting to open up and show their leaves, and I now have a handful of spinach saplings starting to say hello.
I also tried covering the plants at night on colder evenings, but I don't think I did this regularly enough to tell if it made much difference.
The seeds I started indoors, are another story. Fearing that the outdoor snow peas might not make it, I started a couple of plants in seed trays and then took them outside where each one promptly died. That's not surprising, since snow peas are known to dislike transplanting. But I think the bigger problem is that I let them grow too large indoors. They were all stem and few leaves thanks to not enough light, nutrition, and other factors.
I had also been growing garlic chives, bunching onions, and bok choy indoors. The first time I tried transplanting some onions outdoors, they died almost instantly. So I let the plants hang out in the seed trays for a few more weeks... which I'm pretty sure was way too long.
Yesterday I went to transplant some of the onions into larger pots, and I noticed that almost all of the roots had dug through the bottom of the tray searching desperately for space. I don't have a lot of hope for their survival now.
The bok choy had similar problems. I think I may have successfully salvaged a few plants by putting them in larger pots -- but I think my best chance at getting bok choy to grow properly is just to seed it directly outside.
I still have high hopes for the sweet peppers I started in a seed tray recently. These guys are younger than the doomed onions and bok choy plants, and so I think I moved them into larger plants at just the right time. I just hope they don't grow too big indoors, because I won't be putting them out on the roof until mid-May.
Practice makes perfect and I haven't given up on starting some items indoors and moving them outdoors. But while the weather was in the 70s yesterday afternoon I took some time to throw some onion and bok choy