Thursday, February 2, 2012

Will You Be Digging This Spring? Prepare Now

I love this time of year!

It goes back to my childhood. I remember my Mom's excitement when the spring seed catalogs started to arrive in the mail. I never understood why she would pour over each page carefully, savoring every seed write up and doing research for a several nights. I do know that the excitement about starting our Summer garden was infectious.

I would like to say I am not like my Mother, but I did inherit her enjoyment for gardening.

I don't need to garden. I want to. My husband grows most of the fruit and vegetables we eat, but I still want to have my own little garden. I have an area big enough to be useful, but doesn't take up all of my extra time. Each year I try to have my children help out more. It is a teaching tool. A real link to our food.

Have you started planning for this year?

I feel late already. That is not really true... but my husband is already planting onions in the greenhouse. The truth is, if you are looking to get seedlings or rare heirlooms you better start planning now. Some of my favorite items will be sold out soon, so I want to get my order in.

If you are thinking of gardening this year, here are some suggestions:

1. Figure out the size of your plot. Sketch it out on paper so you can realistically gauge what you can plant. I usually have bigger eyes than available soil. Don't forget to plan in some pathways or divisions between your rows for easier harvesting and weeding.

2. Will you use mulch? This last year I tried a type of silver mulch, but there are black, clear, red, green, etc. with different benefits. The rolls are inexpensive when I count up how much time they saved me. This is a great organic tip, by the way. Lay your mulch and then cut holes for your seedlings. Mulch cuts down on weeding and helps retain moisture under the plastic. Some even deter common plant pests.

3. What seeds do you have leftover from last year? The expiration dates for various plants are different. Some you may need to replace every year, and others will keep (in a cool, dry place) for several. Old seed may still sprout, but more of the seeds will fail to germinate.

If you have a failed packet of seeds, it may just be a bad batch and not the variety. If you have issues, contact the seed company. Of course, make sure you choose plants for your region.

4. Check Region, care and problems associated with each plant you want to grow. Seed catalogs will include a regional temperature map, take advantage of this information to get the most out of your garden and know what will thrive in your climate. My Mom always ordered from the national companies like Burpee, but I choose to order from a local company, Territorial, because I know all their plants are tested for my region specifically. I also make note of germination time and if I should keep an eye out for any particular pests or illness. This way I can be prepared and catch things early.

5. Direct Sow or Transplant? Though my husband works with large greenhouses, most of us use smaller home versions. I grew up using the simple Ferry Morse plant tray kits. They come with plugs, dirt and a lid to keep in humidity. Depending on your indoor temps, you might need additional heat to help the seeds germinate.

 Tonight I am sitting down to make my list of seeds for order. It is a while before I can begin working the ground, but seedlings will need to be started soon. I have even noticed our local Walmart has their large Spring seed display up and ready. I am really looking forward to sunnier weather.

I want to know, will you be gardening this year? I hope this inspires you to get planning.
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