kale not sprouting

I'm in Massachusetts, zone 5.
In early spring (April 23), I couldn't resist getting outside to dig any longer. I loved getting my hands dirty and prepared the vegetable garden spot. I planted radish, pea and kale seeds as those were the ones the seed packages said should go in early, but honestly, I wasn't as concerned about what would come up; I just wanted to dig. The spring has been cooler than most. The radishes and peas have sprouted. The kale has not. There's no reason to believe there's anything wrong with the packet of seeds I bought.
Now here it is Memorial Day and the end of a week of cold drizzle. The urge to dig has hit again. The plan is to go to the garden center and buy seedlings of tomato, basil and peppers and put them in the ground. I'm planning the spacing in my mind. Should I assume that if the kale hasn't sprouted in 5 weeks it isn't going to and put basil in that place, or would that be giving up just before success? I'd like to eat some young kale leaves, but I'd also like a jump on the basil.
--Lia
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Lia, I planted kale indoors and outdoors in early April. Both sprouted in under a week. These were Burpee seeds, ordered directly from the company. You might want to do the same. Perhaps your seeds were mishandled before they were sold. What kind were they?
Although it's getting kind of hot for growing kale right now, you can shade them easily. Buy some dark colored window screen the suspend it over the seedlings with sticks or whatever works. Plastic clothes pins are good for this.
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Doug Kanter wrote:

It is possible that the seeds were mishandled, but I'm leaning towards an explanation that has to do with the cold wet weather. I threw away the packet so I can't tell you the brand name, but it was the same as the peas and radishes. It could have been Burpee or one of the other well known brands. What's the right temperature for growing kale? The temps are getting up into the 70s in the day and down to the 50s at night now, but earlier it was only getting as high as 50 in the day.
This may all be a moot point. I needed the space and put a basil and 2 tomatoes in some of the space previously devoted to kale.
Now I'll change the subject and ask the question I ask every year. Does anyone have any new ideas on how to defeat the squash vine borer? Last year I gave up on the organic tricks (tin foil on the soil, netting) and decided to fight dirty. I used poison, and the buggers STILL destroyed my plants before I got a single squash. I started wanting zucchini, then switched to waltham butternut because I understood it was borer resistant. Hah! They're planted in a half barrel filled with soil from the garden center. You'd think I give up, but each year I think of how lovely it would be to have home-grown squash and get optimistic again.
--Lia
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OK, Lia - one subject at a time. :-)
1) Kale: If it grows in hot weather, it won't be awful, especially if you're picking young leaves as you mentioned. Mature plants will get really tough, but they're still useful (and delicious) in soups. So, go ahead and plant some now. I have no idea what the right temperature is for sprouting the seeds. Outside, my soil was pretty chilly. Indoors, I had my trays on gravel with heating cables underneath. They both sprouted at about the same time, give or take a few days. I suspect the problem was your seeds. So....
2) Don't take chances with seed. There may be other sources for great seed, but for almost 30 years, I've been using Burpee, and ordering most of them directly. I don't know what they do differently, but whatever it is, it always performs better than anything else I buy. The seeds you bought might've sat in a hot UPS truck for 2 days. Or, maybe they were beat up at the store. I was at a home improvement store a few weeks ago and there was a lady running the outdoor plant area. She told me in no uncertain terms (and using language like a sailor) that the staff had originally put the entire seed display in the outdoor area where they keep the fertilizer and bricks and fence materials. She said it was exposed to direct sunlight and dampness, until she had a talk with the manager. So, you never know. Order your seeds directly. You get one or two chances a year to make things work. Why mess around?
3) Space: Go to www.bn.com and in the search box, enter "square foot gardening". That's an ancient book which explains how to pack a lot more production into spaces much smaller than the seed packets recommend. Great book. It *almost* doesn't matter what you've planted already, with relationship to whether there's space left for kale. There probably is space. Look at how weeds grow in a farm hedgerow - right on top of one another. Buy the book. And, tuck the kale plants in any empty space you can find. Don't forget to plant some seeds in August, to mature in October and later. You can harvest it when there's six inches of snow around the plants.
4) Squash vine borer: Forget the poisons - you've already noticed that they don't always work. In his book "Crockett's Victory Garden", Jim Crockett says that sometimes you can pick out the borer with a small knife, and then mound up the soil around the hole, and the plant will be fine. This has worked for me in some years, not in others. I think it depends on how quickly you notice that the plant is wilting. We expect some plants to sag a bit if the weather's really hot, and/or the plant needs water, but with squash, you can't assume anything. You have to get down on your knees and look underneath at the first sign of trouble.
This link provides some helpful information on dealing with the bug: http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/squashbore.html
The primary means is obvious: Don't plant cucurbits (squash, melon, cucumbers) in the same place each year. The bug overwinters in the soil, so move the plants around. And, in northern states, it says only one generation is produced each year. So, what might help is to plant more seeds after you put the first plants in the ground. The second crop will probably reach production age after the borer is gone for the season.
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Thanks for the good information. I hadn't considered how non-seed people might be mishandling seeds. I don't think I'll go so far as direct ordering 4-5 little packets of seeds since the shipping costs would cost so much as to make it prohibitive, but I will buy my packets at the privately owned nursery instead of a big box chain anything.
I have the Victory Garden book and have seen the picture you're talking about excising the borer, but I've never had the confidence to try it. This year I will. I'll also buy new dirt for the barrel. I'd been hoping to avoid that but can see that I'll have to.
The one trouble with planting late in the season is that I prefer to buy seedlings from the garden center over planting seeds. The exceptions are the aforementioned kale, radishes, arugula and beans. I can't even get basil to sprout. I know there's a lot I could do to get seeds to sprout, but I'm taking this gardening stuff one step at a time, and I'm having a lot of fun and learning a lot. I'm not ready to venture out into seeds yet. There are never any squash plants in the stores after Memorial Day. I may have to break down and plant zucchini seeds in July.
Thanks.
--Lia
Doug Kanter wrote:

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I ordered $105.00 worth of seeds from Burpee. Shipping was $9 or some such thing. I'm sure it'll be proportionately less for 3 or 4 packets.
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Doug Kanter wrote:

I'll look into it, but I'd guess that the shipping for $5 worth of seeds would be around $9. Would anyone else like to jump in here on shipping costs when buying direct from places like Burpee or Johnny's? Also, who's to say that the seeds aren't mishandled when shipping even when buying direct from the source? Couldn't seeds be exposed to heat and cold and sunlight anyway?
--Lia
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Julia Altshuler said:

Pinetree Garden Seeds has low shipping prices for seed-only orders: $1.95 (and they stock six varieties of kale). They are very much oriented toward the home gardener. <http://www.superseeds.com/home.htm
If you order early (in December/January) your seeds likely won't be exposed to any hot weather.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
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Doug Kanter wrote:

Let me make sure I understand this. Last year I bought new dirt and put it in a half barrel and planted zucchini in it which was destroyed by a squash vine borer. The barrel was placed in the front of my yard where there's excellent sun and enough space. If I remove the dirt from the barrel and spread it around the hidden vegetable garden on the side of the property where the kale, peppers, basil, tomatoes, and eggplant are and where the raspberries are taking over, then put new dirt in the barrel, is that considered moving the cucurbits around enough? The barrel itself would stay in the same place. This is an ordinary suburban house with a yard so there isn't a great deal of space to move things around in.
The back is shaded by trees so no vegetables there. The side was the obvious place for vegetables, but since the neighbors put up a second story, the sun isn't perfect though still pretty good. The front is sloped, and besides, we want grass and flowers there, and the other side is along a busy-ish street. That's where the current squash barrel is. I suppose I could put vegetables there, but that would be a big project involving digging up grass and improving soil, more than I want to get into for this year.
(I know these sound like stupid questions, but I'm asking them sincerely.)
--Lia
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Normally, you'd plant the thing in question in a different spot to get it away from the previous soil. If you move quite a bit of the soil to another place, that's basically the same idea. The best way, though, is to move the entire house onto the bad soil, and crush anything nasty living in it. This isn't done as often at it should be, unfortunately.

In "The Complete Shade Gardener", by George Schenck, he shows some pictures of corn and few other things happily growing in *light* shade. I've grown some of my best peppers and lettuce this way. Incidentally, this is a great book to own. Really easy to read, very accurate in terms of plant identification. When's your birthday? :-)

That needs to go. Do they ever go away for a week at a time?

See above, about veggies in less than perfect light. Never give up.

Pepper plants blend nicely with ornamentals. Nice leaves, and if you grow some red or yellow peppers, they look as good as flowers.

That needs to be relocated.

If you're within an hour of Rochester NY, I should come over with a bottle of wine and get you tipsy in the garden, Lia. You seem to be suggesting that there may be other things you want to do this summer, in addition to gardening, and that's just plain wrong (unless you're talking about fishing). I think you have not been totally brainwashed, as you should be. Is there anything else I can do to accelerate the madness?

They're not stupid at all, but they do worry me a bit.
"It's a fine line between a hobby, and mental illness". -Somebody
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Doug Kanter wrote:

Have you been googling on me and discovered that one of the other things I want to do this summer is research for my work at the new high end wine and cheese shop in town? I'm going through every Sauvignon Blanc we have in stock one by one and then moving on to the Pinot Noirs.
--Lia
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No, Lia. But, it sounds like a great idea. I'd buy wine from a place like that, assuming the prices were closer to those at a liquor store for the same wines, and FAR from restaurant prices. (Does that make any sense?)
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Doug Kanter wrote:

It makes sense. Restaurants and bars charge you for the service and the fact that you're sitting in their space while you drink. Wine stores don't. Liquor stores get bulk discounts from distributors so they can offer a few less expensive wines for low prices. I work at a high end place that has quite a good selection of expensive wines and a reasonable selection of less expensive wines. There might be a dollar difference in price on that part of the inventory that overlaps the big liquor stores.
--Lia
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Small differences are never a problem. I'm talking about the insane ones: $48.50 for a bottle of wine at a restaurant, and $20.00 for the exact same wine & vintage at a liquor store. Jeeeeez.......there's only so much you can justify. :)
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