Sunday, February 24, 2019

March 2019 Edible Garden Planner

Daffodils in bloom in the edible garden
Sunday, February 24, 2019

Feels like spring is getting close!  The hyacinths and daylilies are sprouting with daffodil flower buds showing their heads.  Now is the time to test your soil, get your garden beds ready for planting, and finish the plan for your spring garden.  

Soil Preparation
You can take a soil sample to our local county co-op extension office to have it tested or buy a do it yourself kit at any big box store or local nursery.  You can do a more extensive soil test by sending your soil sample off.  Here is a link to my blog on soil nutrition:  The next step in garden production and your nutrit...  There is a great analysis web site that will provide a specialized fertilizer designed just for your garden deficiencies that you can make yourself.  Well fed plants grow better and are more nutritious for you, too.  A win-win.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of testing, a sure way to enrich your soil is to use a balanced organic fertilizer and compost.  I add organic material every spring with a layer of compost and hardwood mulch in the garden beds, building the soil’s fertility and its ability to hold water.

A local CSA farmer and organic gardener told me a few years ago that it is important to not let your fertilizer just lay on top of the ground as many of the nutrients will be lost, especially nitrogen.  This spring, we will put down an organic fertilizer by Espoma, a layer of homemade compost with any additional horse manure compost needed and top with mulch.  You can make your own balanced fertilizer, too, which is pretty inexpensive  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

If this is your first time gardening, here is a how to get started.  It is super easy to buy plants and put in pots or in your already established flower beds.  Easy kitchen garden

Ideas of what to plant in March:
There are already plants available at the big box stores in our area.  This is a good place to look for what will grow well in your area.  The types that are already out are cabbage, spinach, lettuce, onion sets, potato sets.  Wait until the soil has dried out somewhat if you are getting the amount of rain we are this year before planting potatoes.  

I'm not planting any crops from the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower this year to reduce the pest problems I have been seeing with these crops in my garden.  I'll pick them up at the farmers market.  I say that every year, but I have a hard time resisting sprouting broccoli.  It gives small broccoli florets and broccoli tasting leaves for salads spring, summer and fall.  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav

The greens I will plant in our mini greenhouse to keep them warmer that helps encourage growth so we get fresh salads as soon as possible.  I just love spring salads!
Mid March garden
Green Oakleaf Lettuce-ready to harvest in 45 days  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Wild Garden Kales-ready to harvest in 30 days Grow one of the super greens this year-kale
Mesclun Valentine Lettuce mix (red tinted lettuce and greens)-ready to harvest in 30-55 days
Marvel of Four Seasons Butterhead Lettuce (I love the sweet taste of butterheads)-ready to harvest in 55 days Everything you need to know about growing lettuce
Red Sails Lettuce (a ruffled red and green, stays sweet even after bolting)-ready to harvest in 45 days
Space Hybrid Spinach-ready to harvest in 38 days  Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
Gourmet Blend Lettuce (Prizeleaf, Royal Oak Leaf, Salad Bowl, Ashley)-ready to harvest in 45 days
Sugar snap peas-ready to harvest in 70 days Time to plant peas!
All kinds of broccoli or cauliflower-ready to harvest in 50-80 days (leaves are great in salads) Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips
Cabbage-ready to harvest in 68 days.  Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow
Carrots-ready to harvest in 50-75 days  Grow crunchy, colorful carrots practically year round
Parsley-70 days to harvest  
Potatoes-ready to begin harvest in 70 days  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio

The above can be companion planted with radishes, beets, chives, garlic, and onions.  Since they are shallow rooted, they grow well with root crops.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!

When I plant in pots, I plant with a handful of worm compost and water in with fish emulsion.  Germination should take anywhere from 4-15 days., depending on how warm the soil is.  I am sure I will be out there looking for little green shoots daily.  Decorative container gardening for edibles

Important tip-if planting seeds in a mulched bed, be sure to cover the seed with only soil; seedlings are too weak to push through mulch.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds 

Potato box

Zone 6/7 Spring Garden Roadmap

Planting your seedlings outdoors:
Now (or as soon as the soil can be worked)-fruit trees and vines, nut trees, asparagus, garlic, peas
End March-cabbage, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, mustards, spinach
Beginning of April-lettuce, lemon balm, parsley
Mid-April-broccoli, cauliflower, thyme
End April-sage
First of May-basil, chives, cucumbers, tomatoes
Mid-May-cantaloupe, eggplant, marigolds, pepper

Starting your seeds outdoors:
Now (or as soon as the soil can be worked): peas, spinach, lettuce
Mid-March: arugula, bok choy, cabbage, carrot, collards, leeks, lettuce, mache, onion. rhubarb, cultivated dandelions, spinach
End March:  fava beans, beets, broccoli, carrot, Chinese cabbage, cress, kale, kohlrabi, leek, mizuna, parsley, parsnip, early potatoes, turnip

One watch out is planting seeds too soon.  Seeds have to have a certain soil temperature to sprout.  Plant too soon and the seed will rot and not sprout.  Here are some soil temp guidelines.  Temps to plant seeds outdoors

Starting your seeds indoors for summer planting:
Now-chives, leeks, lemon balm, onions, parsley, sage, thyme, lettuce, cress, mustard, chard, spinach
Mid-March-basil, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, okra, marigolds, eggplant
End of March-cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes

These dates are just guidelines.  You can start your seedlings later and plant your transplants later as well.  Be sure to read the seed packet for what you are starting.  They make all kinds of varieties that are cold hardy and can be planted sooner than what I outlined above.  If you get a cold snap, there are things you can do to protect your early crops.  Extend the season with protection for plants

The big box stores and local nurseries are good sources of plants too.  If you are just getting started, purchasing from a local nursery or farmers market will get you started with varieties that do well in your area.

Happy gardening!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Time to plant peas!

Flowering pea plants
Saturday, February 23, 2019

Peas are great for spring gardens.  Not only do they taste great, but they add nitrogen to the soil and are easy to "put away" for winter eating.  Early spring is the time to start peas as soon as the soil can be worked (between 2-6 weeks before your last frost date).  

Peas love at least 6 hours of sun, well drained soil, and a side dressing of fertilizer or compost when planted.  Don't get carried away with fertilizer during the growing season or you will have all greenery and no pods.  Be sure to not water the foliage; stick with watering at the ground to avoid fusarium wilt.
Legumes-peas for spring, beans for summer

Peas are part of the legumes which include fava beans, shell beans (like the popular red, kidney, Great Northern beans), snap peas, snow peas, green beans, lima beans, peanuts, lentils, and soybeans.  Peas have been cultivated for thousands of years all around the world, originating in the Mediterranean and the Near East.  Legumes have some of the highest protein in the plant world.  When combined with grains, you can get a complete protein like you do from meat or eggs.  pea nutrition

For maximizing your harvest in a small space, I would go for snow and snap peas since you eat the entire pod.  Even the tips and flowers of the pea plant is edible and a great add to salads.  I plant them in pots every year.

When you plant legumes, be sure to use a rhizobial bacteria inoculant.  This will really boost your harvest.  You just moisten the seed and coat with the rhizobial powder and plant.  Nitrogen accumulates on the roots of the legume.  Just be sure to not pull the plant when you are done harvesting from it so that the nitrogen stays in the soil!  Flowering and pods will use up some of the nitrogen stored in the roots.

The seeds germinate in temps between 40-75 degrees F.  Just scratch a small hole about 0.5" deep to drop the seed in and cover.  Have patience, seeds germinate anywhere from 7-25 days.  Plant every 2 weeks until midspring for continuous harvest.  Peas stop producing pods when temperatures exceed 70 degrees F.  Providing shade can extend the season.  

Harvest sugar snow peas just as the seeds begin to form to have the sweetest peas while the pod is still relatively flat.  Harvest snap peas after the peas inside have reached full size.  Even with shelling peas, pick as soon as the seeds have rounded out.  Continuous harvesting keeps them producing.  You can keep adding what you harvest to a freezer bag to have the sweetest and freshest for winter eating.

Peas can be grown in pots as well as directly in the ground.  Growing in pots allow you to move your peas to a cooler area as spring heats up.  Grow your peas where you want to plant a nitrogen hungry summer crop, like eggplant, lettuce, zucchini or tomatoes.

Most varieties are vining so be sure to give them a trellis or stake to wrap themselves around.  You can easily grow vining in pots if you use a support and or get varieties that the seed packet vine length isn't over a foot longer than the trellis for the pot.  

There are bush varieties out there if you prefer to bypass a trellis or support.  Look for varieties that say "compact", "good for small spaces", "good for containers", etc., if growing in small spaces.  Burpee seed packets also have small clay pot with a checkmark in it for those that are good to grow in pots.  I just grow the bush or short vine variety and just let them drape over the edge of the pot.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Spring edible garden

Early spring lettuce
Sunday, February 17, 2019

Spring is just around the corner.  Daffodils, hyacinths, and crocus are sticking their green heads up, ready to put on a dazzling spring display.  Garlic, overwintering onions, kale, lettuce, and carrots are putting on new leaves.  Perennial veggies like sorrel and dandelions are showing their greenery.  Spring is a time that cool loving veggies shine with lush growth and sweet taste.

 Crops fall into 2 categories-cold season crops and warm season crops.  Cold season crops are those that prefer when temperatures are cool.  When warm temperatures hit (80’s), the warm weather signals there time in the garden is done.  Cold crops “bolt” when it gets hot, which is simply sending up a flower stalk to make seeds and continue the cycle of life.  It is that bolting time of year.....

Now is a great time to start seeds for cold season crops indoors or outdoors.  It is optimal if starting seeds outdoors to provide some type of cover to help warm the temperature of the soil and give the seeds a jump start.  Otherwise, they take longer to sprout.  Planting under cover also protects them from hungry birds.  Indoor Seed Starting Calendar  Outdoor seed starting tips  Outdoor seed sowing seed starting times

I use mini greenhouses I purchased on Amazon that I can put my pots under.  I can remove when the weather gets more predictable.  It also gives me the flexibility to move the pots later on to cooler spots to extend the production of cool weather loving veggies.  

over-plant and over-seed my pots outdoors.  I thin the extra plants by carefully removing them and placing them either in another pot or in the garden bed when they need to be thinned or when the conditions are right to transplant into the garden. 

Big box stores and some nurseries are getting their seeds and bedding plants in now.  They may have plants out that may not be able to survive outdoors without some protection.  Read the label on the plant or look up on-line to see how many weeks before the last frost the variety can be planted without cover safely.

Here is a listing of cool loving crops that shine in the spring garden.

Cold crops and growing tips
Arugula, Corn salad, Sorrel Growing fabulous lettuce and greens
Broccoli and Cauliflower Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips
Brussels Sprouts, same family as broccoli and cauliflower  
Cultivated Dandelions  Grow Cultivated Dandelions
Mustard and Mustard Greens, same conditions as lettuce and greens 

Most Mediterranean herbs are perennials and can be planted in the spring garden.  You can plant oregano, thyme, lavender, sorrel, winter savory, chives, tarragon and sage once and have them year after year.  This is how I started edible gardening.  They are care free and super easy.  Plus, spices are expensive in the store so you get a huge return on investment.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

Herbs for Spring Planting
Lemon balm

Herbs that are frost sensitive are cumin, lemon balm, rosemary, stevia, turmeric, bay laurel and basil.  Wait until frost and freeze risk is over before planting outdoors.

Don't be afraid to interplant your veggies with your flowers.  Flowers not only look great, but they also attract pollinators, increasing your yields, and insects that take care of the dreaded veggie eating insects.  Many flowers are actually edible!  It is a win-win all the way around.  Flowers that are edible

For my spring herb garden, most herbs are already established.  For herbs, I will need to replant cilantro and dill.  

The veggies that overwintered are: sorrel, celery, parsley, lettuce, sprouting broccoli, carrots, Egyptian walking onions, garlic, arugula, chard, cultivated dandelions, kale, and lettuce.  I'll add spinach, peas, cabbage, and more lettuce for my spring veggie garden.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

10 easy and productive veggies to grow

Spring garden with chives, spinach and lettuce in the foreground
Saturday, February 16, 2019

So you want to try your hand at gardening and want to start with the easy ones.  What would those be?  Here are my top 10 easy crops to grow.  All can be grown in pots or the garden.

Basil-this herb is great in salads, sauces, and pesto.  Just plant it in a sunny location and forget it.  Basil thrives on neglect.  Only thing it doesn't like is the cold.  Put out after all danger of frost has passed.  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

Chives-another care free herb.  Wonderful in salads and on potatoes.  A perennial that comes back year after year with pretty lavender blooms in late spring that are pretty adds to home grown salads.  Gives you the taste of onions with continuous harvests.   Add chives to your garden

Dandelions-a super nutrition green that was brought over by European immigrants.  New leaves are great in salads, mature leaves are tasty wilted, and roots are great dried and used as a coffee replacement.  7 Ways Dandelion Tea Can Be Good for Your Health  Just make sure you only use dandelions that have not been sprayed with chemicals.  There are also cultivated dandelions with larger leaves and sweeter taste available.  Grow Cultivated Dandelions

Egyptian walking onions-my favorite onion to grow.  These guys are perennials.  They continue to multiply underground or by the bulbets they sprout on the tops of their leaves in early summer.  With their curly tops, they remind me of Medusa!  The bottoms get the size of leeks and have the taste of white onions.  The tops I use like chives.  Egyptian walking onions

Garlic-typically planted in the fall.  They can also be planted in the spring; the bulb just won't grow as large as when planted in the fall.  Garlic has not only wonderful taste, but a plethera of health benefits.   For more on garlic, see  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips...... 

Green beans-come in either bush or vine form.  Personally, I like the vining beans, called pole beans. Simply provide a trellis for them to climb up and pick frequently to keep them producing.  They have pretty flowers to boot.  They grow well in the ground or in pots.  For more on beans,  Growing beans

Spinach in a pot
Lettuce-I love fresh lettuce from the garden.  Spring is prime time for the sweetest lettuce ever.  You can grow lettuce even in the summer if you plant the right varieties.  Bolt-free, sweet summer lettuces  The best advice for lettuce is to keep the soil moist and when the temp's rise, give it some sun.  Everything you need to know about growing lettuce  By harvesting the bottom leaves, you can get a continuous harvest for weeks.  Let the plant go to flower and keep their seeds to replant.  Never ending salad from one packet of seeds 

Mustard-a super easy, spicy green to grow.  I love adding new leaves to salads.  My favorite, and self-seeding, mustard, is Giant Red mustard.  It is one of the first to come up in the spring and self-seeds so you get new plants year after year.  What’s growing in the garden in February?   I grow lettuce and greens both in pots and in the garden bed.

Peas-another easy to grow veggie in the legume family.  I prefer to grow snow peas.  You get a lot more from each plant.  Sweet, tastiness for spring salads.  Peas are planted as soon as the soil can be worked.  I like to plant peas in pots.  Time to plant peas!

Sprouting broccoli-if you love the taste of broccoli, this is one you should try.  You begin getting bite size broccoli florets in summer and continues until fall.  If your lettuce bolts in the heat of the summer, use sprouting broccoli leaves; they taste just like the florets!  Sprouting broccoli- a year round fav

These are my top 10 easiest to grow veggie recommendations.  Try one or two or all ten for your first garden!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

February 2019 Edible Garden Planner

Overwintering kale
Sunday, February 10, 2019

Green things start popping up in the garden in February.  The first up are the perennial edibles and ornamentals like cultivated dandelions, sorrel, arugula, chives, crocus, daffodils, and hyacinths.  Daffodil greenery broke through late last month.  Overwintering carrots, onions, kale, and corn salad are early greenery in the garden.  

February is the month to get the garden ready for the spring planting frenzy.

You can get a jump on the garden by starting seeds indoors.  It is easy and a budget friendly option that allows you to grow many varieties not available at your neighborhood nursery or big box store.  Besides, it is nice to have green things growing again!

10-12 weeks prior (end Jan/beginning of Feb in our Zone 7 garden)

8-10 weeks prior (mid-February in our Zone 7 garden)

For a full seed starting calendar, Indoor Seed Starting Calendar

What are the tricks to successful seed starting?  The most surefire I have found with a gadget is the Aerogarden with the seed starting tray.  I have almost 100% germination rate with it.
Aerogarden with seedlings sprouting
When starting in conventional peat/coir pots, the key is using sterile seed starting mix, pots and containers.  You can make your own seed starting mix with peat moss or coir (renewable), compost, and vermiculite.  Just be sure to heat the compost to at least 150 degrees to kill any pathogens before using to start seeds.

Place the seeds in the starter mix in the pots and wet thoroughly from the bottom (watering from the top can dislodge seeds).  After fully saturated, they are ready to put in a catch pan.  Make sure any catch pan that you use has been thoroughly washed in a bleach solution so all pathogens are killed.  The one I just bought has a water reservoir in the bottom of it that wicks the moisture up under the seedlings.

I put my seed starts in a plastic tray with a clear plastic lid in a sunny window that I have had for years that you can buy at any big box store.  Keep moist, but not wet, and with the clear cover on until seedling emerges.  Once seedling emerges, remove the clear lid.

Make sure you label your seedlings as soon as you plant them; you may think you will remember 2 months from now what was where, but likely not.  I keep a piece of paper under the seed starter that has captured for each cell what is planted in the cell.  I have also just gone ahead and put the plant marker in the coir pot with the name on it.  

Now is also a great time to start keeping a journal.  Start tracking what you planted when so you can review next year what worked well to repeat and what didn’t work so well to tweak.  Keep a garden diary

Your seedling’s first leaves are not “true” leaves; think of them as baby teeth.  The second sets of leaves are their true leaves.  They are ready to be hardened off when they have their first set of true leaves.  Seedlings must be hardened and not just thrown outside.  You take them out a little at a time, gradually increasing their exposure to sun and cold, only during the daytime.  I try and plant when there is a warm spell forecasted to minimize the shock.

There are great selections of herbs and veggies at nurseries and big box stores nowadays so you have great options just waiting until spring is officially here and picking up what looks good at your nearby store in a couple of months.  This is also a great back up if your first seed starting adventure goes a little awry...........
Overwintering carrots
Before you start planting, it is a good idea to do a soil test to see what nutrients your garden needs.  You can buy a kit for testing, take a soil sample to your local extension office or send off a sample for a more rigorous soil analysis.   The next step in garden production and your nutrit...  If you don't want to go to the trouble of a soil test, add a well balanced, organic fertilizer, cover with compost, and top with mulch.  

If you are putting in new garden beds, here are some tips  Put in a new garden bed the easy way-really  

I like gardening in our flower beds and in pots.  I fertilize, add a layer of compost before mulching.  This keeps the nutrition where the plants can get to it easier.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

Asparagus, fruit trees and bushes, garlic, grapes, shallots, spinach and peas seeds can be planted in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked.  Outdoor seed sowing seed starting times  If gardening in mulched flower beds, I put a small slit in the mulch and then sow the seeds and cover with potting soil.  Most seedlings are not quite strong enough to break through the mulch.

I am still trying to decide what to plant in the garden this year.  I did capture at the end of the gardening season what I wanted to plant.  Reflecting back on 2018, planning for 2019   I've gotten some new seeds so will modify the plan adding the new varieties that catch my eye.  Here is what I definitely have in my garden every year:  herbs, chives, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, green beans, snap peas and lots of flowers!  

Garden planning
For first time or busy gardeners, Easy kitchen garden 

Hang on, Spring is almost here!