PLAYING IN THE DIRT
We have slushed and plowed our way through winter. As spring breaks on the horizon, our thoughts turn toward growing greenery outside, specifically the garden.Now is the time for planning.
In order to enjoy an early crop, as soon as the weather breaks, cool weather seeds like spinach and leaf lettuce can be planted. Stagger the sowing and you’ll have a steady stream of salad greens all summer into fall.
Other seeds can be started indoors as early as March so they will be strong enough for transplanting outdoors after the last frost. The most common seeds started are peppers and tomatoes.
If indoor space is not an issue, go to your local home and garden supply store and invest in a good starter soil mix with vermiculite and covered trays. Or buy dry peat pellets. They come in a kit or as refills and must be soaked in water before using. The kits come with clear lids which act as a greenhouse, keeping moisture contained for the seeds to germinate.
If indoor space is an issue, it’s best to purchase ground ready plants from nurseries or greenhouses.
Outdoors, like indoors also must be considered for the garden. The most important rule of thumb is NOT to ignore the sowing spacing requirements on the plant id tags. If it says eighteen inches apart, they mean it! When planted, the baby plants may look lost planted eighteen inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. But when full grown, they will fill the space and more.
Other factors to consider are sunlight, drainage, soil type and fertilizer.
If you don’t have a spacious yard, consider planting in containers or hanging planters. You’ve seen the infomercials for the upside down tomato planters. They also have the same container for peppers. Do you like strawberries? Get a few plants and make a hanging basket.
For obvious reasons, planting zucchini or pole beans on a patio just won’t work. For most vegetables, there are dwarf or bush varieties: Patio Tomatoes, bush beans, and some cucumbers. Leaf lettuce, spinach and green onions do well on patios.
One of the most creative planters I’ve seen was made out of section of (new and clean) aluminum gutters. This works ideally attached to a fence or the side of a garage. Chained together and it can hang under a patio roof. Measure the length of gutter you want. Securely attach the end pieces and drill drainage holes. Secure it to the fence or wall and you’re ready to go. If you want several layers, you’ll need a strong, but light weight chain. The shorter the gutter sections, the fewer supports you’ll need. Just be sure they are far enough apart (height wise) for the plants to grow unencumbered.
Should you make the gutter planter, just remember there are only a couple inches for the roots to grow. Leaf lettuce, baby spinach and green onions work great.
Starting the garden takes work, but the payoff is more than worth it when you can harvest a salad from your back yard.