Sunday, March 29, 2015

April Garden Planner

Sunday, March 29, 2015

April showers bring May flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables.  Now is the perfect time to get serious on getting your spring garden planted!

Crops to plant in April
Early April is a perfect time to plant cold season crops like Brussels sprouts, fava beans, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard and turnips.

We still get frosts in April so you want to hold off on planting warm season crops outdoors like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and squash until May.

When you plant, make sure to fertilize and add mycorrhizae in each planting hole.  If you didn't do a soil test (you can use a kit from a garden store or big box store), use a balanced organic fertilizer like Espoma at the rate recommended.  Mycorrhizae are beneficial microbes that help your plant roots absorb nutrients from the soil.  You can make your own all natural, organic fertilizer, too.  Here is the link:  Make your own fertilizer, it's all natural and inexpensive

If you are re-using pots from last year, here is a link to get your potting soil ready to nourish your new plants:  Re-energize your potting soil!

Frost date importance
The last frost date in our area is around April 20.  This is important to know if you are planting seeds.  The packet tells you when to plant in relation to your last frost date.  You will get the best results following the packet instructions.  Planting early is not always a good strategy as different seeds need different soil temperatures before they will germinate.  Plant too early and they can rot before they have a chance to sprout.

Pots will warm up quicker, but will also chill down faster.  You can put them in a sheltered spot to get a jump on spring.  I love planting greens in large self watering pots that I keep on the patio, making it handy for picking a fresh salad for dinner.

When growing veggies in containers, they will require more watering and more liquid fertilizer than if they were in the ground.  In the summer, you may have to water some water lovers every day.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What to plant in your garden now

Sprouting broccoli
Sunday, March 22, 2015

For our Zone 6 garden, here is what Mother Earth News recommended for planting now.

Sow under cover outdoors or indoors:  
Lettuce, Peas, Peppers

"Under cover" can be a cloche, portable mini green house, or garden fabric.  All three help maintain a more even temperature.  If using a cloche or mini green house, just be sure on sunny days you are letting them vent or it can get way too hot and cook your newly planted seedlings.

You can also put your more tender seedlings in a pot and take them into the garage or place up close to the house when temperatures dip below freezing outside.

Sow outdoors or plant out:
Apple trees, Asparagus, Beet, Blackberry, Broccoli, Summer Cabbage, Carrots, Kale, Leaf Lettuce, Onion, Peas, Potatoes, Raspberry, Rhubarb,  Spinach, Strawberry, Turnip

I am also transplanting outside Parsley, Mustard, Chives.

Happy planting!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What to plant for your first garden

Saturday, March 21, 2015

If you are thinking of starting your first garden and are wondering what to plant?

Here is the basic garden I grow every year:
Herbs (1 each)-chives, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)
3 tomato plants-1 cherry tomato type and 2 slicer types
3 pepper plants-2 sweet peppers and 1 spicy pepper
1 bush zucchini
1 bush cucumber
1 eggplant
A 6 pack of lettuces, spinach or other greens you like
1 Egyptian walking onion (or other bunching, perennial onion)

If it is your first garden, I recommend buying plants.  You can save seeds from your heirloom veggies this year to plant for next year.

There are many programs and app’s out there today that can help you know what to grow, when to plant, and will give you growing tips on each fruit or vegetable.  You can also search my blog for growing tips.

The biggest watch out for starting a new garden is starting too big.  Start small with what you like and use the most in the kitchen.  

For easy ways to prepare your garden bed for planting, here is a link Easy ways to start your garden bed

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Quick tip-Grow Up!

Dwarf tomato tied to a stake
Sunday, March 15, 2015

If you have a horizontally challenged space for gardening, start growing up!  Utilize the vertical space you do have to get more from your garden this year.

There are so many varieties of veggies and fruit available today.  For instance, peas, beans, melons, cantaloup, tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers all come in either bush or vine.  For vertical gardening, look for the vining types.  

You can use any type of support for your plants to grow up on.  A simple wooden stake, a pretty colored corkscrew stake, a decorative arbor, all will work.  Use tomato cages to grow peas and beans!  Whatever you can use to grow something in, you can use to grow something on.
Black trellis on left, yellow tomato cage on right

If your vine will grow higher than the support, just snip off the end when it grows as tall as you want it to.

Supports work in the garden as well as in pots.  I love those brightly colored corkscrew stakes for my pots!

Get more from your garden space this year by growing up!

2 stakes with mesh in between

Saturday, March 14, 2015

When to plant your veggies

Potted onions in the spring

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wondering when to plant?  There are two key criteria for successful plant growth when it comes to the right time to plant-soil temperature and air temperature.  I have found some handy charts and tools to take the guesswork out of when to plant.

There are different ideal soil temps for different vegetables.  All seeds have to have a minimum soil temperature for them to sprout.  The closer to their ideal temperature, the higher the success rate for germination of the seed.  Here is a link to soil temperatures and germination rates:  Soil Temp Seed Starting

As your soil warms, your seedlings will grow faster.  One trick to use to give your seedlings a head start is to put down plastic before planting to preheat the soil.  If planting in a mulched bed, adding fresh mulch will also jump start your soil temps.

For air temperatures, knowing your first and last frost date in your area is key.  Cold season crops can be planted earlier than your last frost date whereas summer crops should not be planted until after your last frost date.  Here is a link for determining your last frost date:  Freeze-Frost Dates

Now that you know what your last frost date is, Johnny Seeds has a nifty chart you can use to calculate when to start your seeds and when to plant your seedlings and plants outside:  Seed Starting and Planting Guide

You don’t want to rush setting out your summer crops.  They really don’t like the cold weather and will shiver in colder temps and soil.  They are really good candidates for preheating the soil and using ground covers or a portable greenhouse to get a jump start on the season.

If you want continuous harvests of the same vegetable, there are two ways to accomplish this.  One is to buy the different types of the same vegetable with different “Days to Harvest.”  For instance, there are many kinds of broccoli and each matures at different times.  Some are ready to harvest in as little as 49 days while others can take up to 250 days.

Another option is to plant the same vegetable in your garden at staggered timing.  This is called succession planting.  Johnny Seeds has a handy spreadsheet for this, too.  Succession Planting Calculator

Pots heat up faster and cool down quicker than your garden beds.  You can use this to your advantage to give your veggies a head start.  Another great thing about pots are they are moveable.  In the spring, you can place them in full sun to warm the veggie.  Then, in the dog days of summer, you can move the pot to a shadier location.  This can help extend the harvest season of your cold season crops.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Power of Purple

Purple Peppers

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Indigo, purple, brown, black:  They are chock full of anthocyanin as well as the rest of the goodies in their red, green, orange or yellow cousins.  Anthocyanin is the super charged antioxidant found in blueberries.  Purple fruits and veggies are packed with flavonoids, too.  All these nutritional benefits come from the indigo color. 

As more folks hear about the health benefits of purple, there are more and more varieties available to grow.  You can get purple carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, beets, onions, corn, blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, radicchio, mustard, pac choi, peas, basil, figs, honeyberry, orach, tomatillo, kohlrabi, okra, beans, kale, peppers, okra, lettuce and corn.  

Darkly tinted purple tomatoes
There are whole sections devoted to purple tinted veggies in seed catalogues this year so they are easy to find.  You can get a purple variety of almost any vegetable you like to grow.  

There are no special requirements to raise purple tinted fruits and vegetables.  They are the same as their traditionally colored sisters, just with more nutrition.  They really shine in the garden and containers as a beautiful splash of color, too.  Try adding them to your garden this year!

Purple tinted chard and lettuce

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Grow your own juice garden

Green juice drink

Saturday, March 7, 2015

If you love juicing, try adding the ingredients you love best into your garden this year.  Here are some recipes with backyard garden ingredients.  I love fresh juiced veggies!  They add energy, nutrition, and alkalize the body, which my tummy really enjoys.

Purple juice-1 large beet, 2 apples or pears, 1 fennel bulb, 2 large purple carrots
Green juice-2 large handfuls kale or any leafy green, 1 medium handful of parsley, 1 large cucumber, 1 half a lemon, 1 pear or apple
Red juice-1 large red pepper, 1 handful of red grapes, 1 large handful of spinach or other leafy greens, half of a hot pepper or pinch of cayenne pepper, 2 stalks of celery

Carrots, beets, apples and pears all contain high amounts of carbs.  If you are looking to for a low glycemic juice, just substitute other green veggies in place of these sweet additions.

Low carb green juice-2 ribs of celery, 1 cucumber, small handful of spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, and parsley with the juice of half a lime.
Low carb red juice-1 large red pepper, 1 cucumber, 1 large handful of leafy greens and half a hot pepper.

You can also add a shot of spirulina, wheat grass, ginger or hot pepper to up the nutrients to any of the above.  You can add dry, raw spirulina or wheat grass instead of the liquid.

Experiment with what you have in the garden.  Use any veggie scraps left over from meal preparation you have for variety and nutrition.

If you want to include the fiber, you can use the same recipes and instead of juicing the ingredients, use a blender to make a smoothie.  You can add ice, too, for a more uniform consistency.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Vegetable Garden Planner

Picture of garden in late March

Sunday, March 2, 2015

Ah, spring is coming soon!  Now is the time to test your soil, get your garden beds ready for planting, and plan 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...

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, building the soil’s fertility and ability to hold water.

A local CSA 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.  This spring, we will put down an organic fertilizer Re-Vita Pro 5-4-4, a layer of mushroom compost and top with mulch.  You can make your own, too, of Re-Vita isn't available in your area  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

What I am planting this March:
Green Oakleaf Lettuce-ready to harvest in 45 days
Wild Garden Kales-ready to harvest in 30 days
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
Short Top Icicle Radish (a white, mild radish that looks like a white carrot)-ready to harvest in 28 days
Space Hybrid Spinach-ready to harvest in 38 days
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
All kinds of broccoli-ready to harvest in 50-80 days (leaves are great in salads)
Cabbage-ready to harvest in 68 days.

These can be companion planted with beets, chives, garlic, and onions.  Since they are shallow rooted, they grow well with root crops.

When I plant in pots, I water in with fish emulsion.  Germination should take anywhere from 4-15 days.  I am sure I will be out there looking for little green shoots daily.

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.

Picture of garden in late March
Zone 6 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
March 31st-cabbage, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, mustards
April 7th-lettuce, lemon balm, parsley
April 14th-broccoli, cauliflower, thyme
April 21st-sage
May 5th-basil, chives, cucumbers, tomatoes, 
May 12th-cantaloupe, eggplant, marigolds, pepper

Starting your seeds outdoors:
Now (or as soon as the soil can be worked): peas and spinach
Mid-March: arugula, bok choy, cabbage, carrot, collards, leeks, lettuce, mache, onion. rhubarb
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.

Starting your seeds indoors for summer planting:
Now-chives, leeks, lemon balm, onions, parsley, sage, thyme, lettuce, cress, mustard, chard
March 17th-basil, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, okra, marigolds, eggplant
March 31st-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.

Happy gardening!