By The SD OG Grower
Itâ€™s that time of year when weâ€™re just getting over the holidays and going back to work while preparing for our new gardens in 2011.
Indoor and outdoor growers alike need to do several things in preparation for the changing seasons and to get ready to start their new crops. Furthermore, those growing outside or in a greenhouse have a unique opportunity to get a spring harvest, or as I like to call it, a â€œbumper cropâ€! â€“ Simply meaning an outdoor harvest before summer!
If you understand how the photo periods work with plants, then you know the equinox is March 21st, which means that the days are just about equal for daylight and dark hours. The daylight hours get longer from this point and through the summer, giving us the perfect opportunity for that bumper crop. There are a few tricks to doing this, but when itâ€™s done properly with the right location, it can be a very rewarding harvest.
Obviously, the winter days are too short, too cold, and are not ideal in any way. But as we approach the spring time, things warm up and the days get longer as the sun moves towards the Northern Hemisphere. So if we put our plants outside ready to flower, theyâ€™ll start flowering immediately. Even though the days are getting longer by about 15 minutes each week, we can get the plants into a heavy enough flower before the days get too long; and the flowering plant, in most cases, will still produce a heavy, bountiful harvest. This can be done in a greenhouse or outside by using that free, natural sunlight from Mother Nature.
March 21st is normally the last frost here in Southern California, and plants can be put outside after this date. However, we need to start and veg our plants inside in order to have them ready to be put into the flowering cycle, which the short daylight hours trigger in the plant. The best thing to do is to set up a vegetative grow room indoors, either under metal halide (MH) HID bulbs or T-5 fluorescent bulbs. Timing is everything since you want them to be ready to go outside on or by March 21st. So getting started sometime in January with setting up your room, and starting from either seeds or clones, gives you time to veg them to your preferred height before putting them outside. Some growers prefer to veg their plants from 1-2 ft before putting them outside and will usually do more of them to avoid having large trees susceptible to all the elements. Many times, smaller outside plants are easier to manage and cover up from rain if necessary. Some also prefer to plant in portable containers so they can move them around or inside if necessary for any reason.
Even though the daylight hours get longer than preferred towards the end of this harvest, if done properly and early enough, the plant can still flower and produce fruit of high quality when harvested in 8-10 weeks or so. The problem or fear with not starting early enough is that the daylight hours get too long and the plant may revert back into vegetative growth, keeping it from producing quality flowers or causing it to become extremely leafy and not full of fruit, which is the worst case scenario. From my experiences, itâ€™s a great way to get a bumper crop of fresh fruit before the summer!
For those who are not doing a bumper crop and are planning to veg all summer, you also have some preparation work to do. Whether itâ€™s in a greenhouse or outside, the location and area needs to be prepped. Greenhouse growers need to make sure the greenhouse is ready from last year by repairing anything necessary, cleaning it up, doing general maintenance on fans and equipment, and cleaning out and/or replacing all of the water lines and reservoirsâ€¦simply make sure everything is clean and ready for the upcoming crop.
Outdoor growers need to prep their planting sites with materials such as soils, amendments, fertilizers, chicken wire and/or other supplies needed to grow and protect your crop. Chicken wire (the small holed chicken wire) should be used to completely wrap around the plant. Itâ€™s a great way to keep rodents and pests from eating and destroying your plant. When you dig your planting hole line, do it with the chicken wire so it comes up out of the ground about 1-2 ft or so. Then wrap and cage it in over the top, completely surrounding and wrapping the plant; or patch in chicken wire to protect it from animals like gophers that come from underneath the root zone. Clearing a patch or some weeds to make an ideal location is all part of the preparation that should be started now. Making the soil early with beneficial microbial inoculants is also a good way to make sure your patchâ€™s soil is ready and charged for the new crop. Beneficials take some time to build up in order to produce good rich soil, so preparing it early is the best and wisest choice.
I hope you enjoyed your vacation and the holidays, but itâ€™s time to get back to work. The old saying â€œthe early bird gets the wormâ€ has never been more true. Those of you who start preparation early will have a better, healthier, bountiful harvest no matter what youâ€™re doing!
Happy Growing in 2011!