Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Can I Start Seeds for My Spring Garden?

The answer to “when can I start seeds for my spring garden” depends a lot on how much of a gambler you are. If you have seeds, seed-starting materials, and space with lighting galore, then anytime is probably a good time.

Basil seedling started at end of March, 2016, for sharing in May. PHOTO/Amygwh
If, like me, you have limited space, lighting, and materials, following a more conservative schedule may be a better choice.

For spring veggies and early flowers, my first planting usually begins in mid-to late February. That is when I plant seeds for English peas (and sugar-snaps), spinach, dill, and early flowers like larkspur outdoors in the garden. That is also usually when I set some seed potatoes in a single layer in a lighted space  indoors (sunny window can work) so they begin to sprout for mid-March planting.

The problem with planting earlier is that some seeds, peas especially, will rot in the ground if they are too cold and damp for too long. When they do come up, though, they can survive some very cold weather. So can little spinach seedlings. The dill and larkspur won’t come up until later, but they do better when planted early outdoors. That is just their way.

Seeds for other spring crops may come up in a stretch of warmish weather if planted outside very early, but if we get a return to actual winter, with temperatures dropping below 20 degrees F for more than a couple of hours, the little seedlings are not likely to survive. Spinach seedlings can take the cold, and it is possible that kale and collards can, too, but lettuces are sometimes less happy with such very cold nights, and new carrot seedlings might not make it, either.

Since the weather can still turn very cold in February, I keep an eye on the forecasts before planting even the most cold-hardy of veggies outside.

For most of my spring veggies, I wait until the first of March to start seeds indoors. That list usually includes lettuces, parsley, and beets. When these little plants are big enough, I move them outside for a few hours each day to help them adjust to life out-of-doors before transplanting them into the garden. By the end of March, they should be ready for that move.

Seeds for peppers often are slow to come up, and I tend to start some peppers, for summer, in the first or second week of March, too. Carrots can be planted outside at around the same time.

Tomatoes are a lot speedier to develop than peppers, so I wait an extra week or two before starting any of those.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Planning for the Community Gardening Year

Garden planning, for all kinds of gardens, needs to take into account a long list of factors for best success. The sun/shade conditions available, common disease and pest issues in the area, and the local climate zone are examples of what we gardeners might want to consider.
Community Garden in Mableton, GA PHOTO/Amygwh

The garden's multiple purposes are also important. Is it going to provide cut flowers to bring inside? Is it providing herbs or vegetables? Is it all about supporting pollinators? Is it a "beauty spot" in a green swath of lawn?

Another consideration is whether we are going to save seeds produced in this year's garden to use in growing plants for next year's garden. Planning for seed saving will help a gardener choose good varieties for that purpose, and also help the gardener know how many plants to grow.

Seed Savers Exchange keeps information about seed saving online, to help gardeners get started. I also, though, will be giving a presentation about Planning for Seed Saving next week, on Wednesday, January 28 25, at the first 2017 meeting of Cobb County's Community Gardens group.

The group is a kind of "advisory committee," that meets four times each year. Its members are community garden leaders, members, and supporters who work together to keep Cobb County's community gardens vibrant, productive, and fun.

At the meetings, we (I am a member; can you tell?) share notes about what is going well in our gardens and gardening communities, and we help each other with problems that may have arisen. It is a great group!

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m., at the Cobb Water System Training Lab classroom, at 662 South Cobb Drive, Marietta. You don't have to be a member to come to the presentation, and it is always educational to hear what is going on in other people's gardens.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Choosing Varieties for the Small Veggie Garden

Choosing what to grow in a small veggie plot is a fun part of gardening. Right now, seed companies are sending out catalogs, and garden centers are setting up their seed displays. Pictures in the catalogs and on the seed packets all look so good!
Seeds from Irish Eyes for a small garden.  PHOTO/Amygwh

With so many wonderful seed options, how can we make choices that will be good for our own gardens?

Besides choosing crops that our families will actually enjoy eating, it helps to find out which varieties do well in our region, and it also helps to choose varieties that have been developed to stay smaller than the full-size versions.

Smaller crops can be easier to tend, since they stay “in bounds”, and a lot of the smaller varieties have a shorter time to maturity. ‘Little Gem’ Romaine lettuce is just 6 inches tall (super cute!) and should be ready to harvest as a full head in just 46 days. ‘Tom Thumb’ Butterhead lettuce is another small variety, taking 60-65 days to reach full size, and it has done very well in my own garden.

Clues to mature size are often right in the name of the variety. Look for words like spacemaster, bush, gem, little, baby, and jewel.

Of course, some veggies are naturally space-saving, all on their own. Carrots, radishes, and beets, for example, which only need a square of space 3-to-5 inches across per plant to grow well, can all be good choices for gardeners working with smaller spaces.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...