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, 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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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
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.
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?)
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
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
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