Saturday, February 29, 2020

March 2020 Edible Garden Planner

Daffodils in bloom in the edible garden
Sunday, February 29, 2020

Feels like spring is getting close!  The hyacinths and daylilies are sprouting with daffodil flowers and forsythia in bloom.  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.  My spring routine is always to put down an organic fertilizer by Espoma, then a layer of homemade compost with any additional composted horse manure needed and top with mulch.  Nitrogen oxidizes easily with the air so be sure to cover your fertilizer with soil, compost or mulch every time you fertilize.  You can make your own balanced fertilizer, too, which is pretty inexpensive  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer

cIf this is your first time gardening, here is how to get started.  It is super easy to buy plants and put in pots or plant in your established flower beds.    Easy kitchen garden  How to know what to grow  Surprising veggies that can be grown in pots  If you are really nervous, the easiest garden to start with are herbs.  They love to be neglected!  Start a kitchen herb 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 and easy way to look for what will grow well in your area.  The types that are already out there are cabbage, spinach, lettuce, onion sets, potato sets, blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry bare root plants.  Wait until the soil has dried out somewhat if you are getting the amount of rai we are this year before planting potatoes or they could just rot.   Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a patio 

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.  Cabbage is nutritious and easy to grow   Broccoli and cauliflower growing tips   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!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Flowers that are edible

Edible daylilies in bloom edging the vegetable garden

Thursday, February 27, 2020

If you want to add a beautiful touch and taste to a salad, dinner plate or drink, add a flower!  Many common flowers are edible.  These flowers do triple duty-adding beauty to the garden, attracting pollinators to increase harvests, and food.

Herb flowers are edible-like basil, thyme, oregano, calendula/pot marigold, sage, lavender, nasturtium, chamomile, borage, bee balm, garden chives, garlic chives and rosemary.  They add great color and flavor to salads and dishes.  Their flavor is a lighter version of the herb.  Let's not forget saffron; a pricey spice from the stigmas of the saffron crocus that you can grow in your own garden.  Start a kitchen herb garden!
Edible garlic chives in bloom

Vegetable flowers are edible-like broccoli, cabbage, kale, bean, pea, onion, garlic, zucchini, chicory.    Fried squash blooms are delish!  Just stuff them with a cheese mixture and fry.

Some plants we consider weeds are edible-like chickweed and dandelions flowers as well as their greens and clover flowers.  Chickweed tastes pretty good.  Cultivated dandelions are sweeter in the cool temperatures.  When it gets warmer, harvest the young leaves and flowers for salads and the large for steamed greens.  Full of great nutrition.  Edible, nutritious "weeds"

Edible lavender flowers in bloom

Then there are the ornamentals that are edible like alliums, tuberous-rioted begonias, garden forms of Bellis perennis daisies, daylilies, tiger lilies, erythroniums, fuchsias, hostas, orchids, violets, houttuynia, the pinks, Salvia patens, chrysanthemums, grape hyacinth, honeysuckle, lilac, roses, dianthus, passion flower, pansies, Johnny Jump Ups, scented geraniums, violas, yucca, snapdragons, tulips, zinnias and sunflowers.  Citrus blooms are, too.

Self sowing edible flowers:
Signet dwarf Marigolds

Plant these, allow to go to seed, and they will continue to re-establish themselves year after year.  These are referred to as "volunteers" in the garden.  You can also save their seeds and sow in the spring where you want them to grow.  They do great in garden beds and containers.  This year, I had many self sowing zinnias return in light pink, medium pink and fuchsia. 
Self sustaining gardening appealing? Try the self-seeders!

You can also make beautiful flower sugars to spoon into teas, over berries and desserts.  Or add herbal flowers to sea salt for seasoning dishes.  Using herbs, flowers and fruit for flavored sugars and salts  You can  make flavored vinegars  Make your own flavored vinegars  The flower color will tint the vinegar as well as flavor it.  After straining, add a whole flower for its beauty. You can even make candied flowers!  Or add them to homemade drinks as a garnish  Use herbs for signature desserts and grown up beverages   or main ingredient Homegrown flavored waters and sodas
Homemade herbal sugars and salts
You can quickly look on line to verify that your ornamental is indeed edible, which is recommended just to be on the safe side.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

All about asparagus

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Asparagus is a spring time treat, and a perennial vegetable as well.  Asparagus came to the States in colonial times.  It dates back to Egyptian times 3000BCE and is thought to have been domesticated by the Moors in Spain.  In the wild, the spears are about the width of a pencil.  The type we enjoy today was developed in the 18th century. 

Asparagus will last in the garden for 15 to 20 years.  Asparagus is a hardy perennial and will survive winters even in Zone 3.  The mature plants will be 4-5 feet tall.

Asparagus has good nutrition, being low carb with moderate protein, fiber, vitamins A, C and E, iron, folate, riboflavin, and thiamine.  It has 70% of daily recommended vitamin K.   Asparagus nutritional profile  

It is the first shoots of the plant that are harvested in spring and eaten.  Once the plant begins to fill out, they become woody and don't taste that great.  Asparagus plants grow quite large so should be planted in rows 6 feet apart.  The plants themselves can be planted 1 foot apart in the row.  Asparagus plants have fernlike foliage.  You can either plant them off by themselves or along the back of the garden bed.  Just be sure to have a way to get to them for harvesting and fertilizing in the spring.
Mature asparagus plants
Asparagus prefers a light soil, rich in organic matter that is well drained.  Loosen the soil to 6" deep and mix with organic matter (compost) when planting the original bed.  In subsequent years, apply a top dressing of compost in the winter months.  Transplant crowns outdoors as soon as danger of frost has passed when daffodils are fading and soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F.  It is best to get the crowns in soil as soon as you get them.  You can start plants indoors as early as 4-6 weeks prior to last frost and transplant after danger of frost has passed.
Baby asparagus plants
It is best to create a small mound to lay the roots out around the mound.  The first year, do not second year and 6 weeks the following years.  It is best to leave the smallest spears to help support the roots and leaves of the plant to give stronger harvests year after year.  Fertilize early in spring and again after harvest each year.

It is the male plant that produces the larger, thicker spears whereas the female plants produce small berries (seeds).  Each asparagus plant is dioecious, meaning they are both male and female.  That is why you will see in the description of the variety what percentage of the plants will be female and what percentage will be male.  To have a productive asparagus bed, remove the female plants.  Be sure to take this into account when you plant your bed as you will need to plant more than you will end up leaving in the garden.
Berries on female plants
April is prime asparagus harvest time.  You harvest the spears when they are 6-10" tall, cutting about an inch above the soil surface.  You can store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  36 degrees F and 100% humidity are the ideal storage conditions.

Pests of asparagus are the asparagus beetle, slugs.  You can use pyrethrin for the beetles and slug traps or baits to keep the slugs under control.  I recently saw wool pellets that you sprinkle around your plants that are susceptible to slugs and the pellets will expand into woolly balls that slugs won't cross so that is another option.

Asparagus is susceptible to fusarium wilt and stem, crown rot, and rust.  This is why it is important for them to be in loose soil that is well drained.  If your garden conditions aren't ideal, be sure to look for varieties that are resistant to these diseases.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Growing artichokes and cardoons

Artichokes ready to harvest
Saturday, February 22, 2020

Artichokes and cardoons look very similar and part of the thistle family.  The artichoke is grown for its fruit while the cardoon is grown for its stalk.  It is thought that they originated in Sicily.  There are writings of the plant for culinary purposes by the Greek and Romans as far back as around 300 BCE.  Arabs likely introduced the artichoke to the rest of Europe in the 1400's.  The artichoke and cardoon made its way to the States during colonial times.  

Artichokes are an annual in the north and a perennial in the south.  The hardiest artichoke variety is a perennial down to Zone 6.  Cardoons are a perennial down to Zone 7.  

Both like the same growing conditions in the garden, requiring deep, rich soil and full sun.  It is recommended to purchase plants or start indoors in January, setting out in the garden after danger of frost is past.  They do require 10-12 days of temperatures under 50 degrees F to produce buds, which is what you eat on an artichoke plant.  

They are easy to start from seed indoors or you can purchase plants.  Just sow a few seeds in each 4" pot, 1/4" deep before the crocus bloom.  They will germinate in 10-20 days.  Soil temperature should be between 65-75 degrees F with a pH between 6.5-7.5 for ideal growing conditions.  Garden soil temperature should be at least 45 degrees F when transplanted into the garden.  Give each plant a 4' by 4' space to grow as they are large plants, growing 4' tall.

If your plants need dividing after they are well established, divide in the spring.  
Artichoke plant at maturity
Artichokes love full sun, fertile and well drained soil.  Fertilize when planting.  Artichokes prefer mild winters and cool summers.  If you live in an area with scorching summers, plant them where they will get some afternoon shade.

Artichokes are ready to harvest about 75 days after transplanting.  Each plant will give 3-4 artichokes.  The artichoke we see in the store is actually a flower bud.  Their flower is a beautiful, thistle like purple.  The plant has striking green foliage with a blue tinge.  Artichokes need moisture during budding.

Harvest the flower buds before they start opening.  You will see that the bottom scales begin to spread and the center scales are still tight.  This is the time to pick the buds.  Artichokes don't last long in the refrigerator.  Ideal storage conditions are 36 degrees F, 100% humidity.  
Artichoke bud beginning to open

Cardoon stems can be harvested 60 days from transplanting.  You can also enjoy the flowers of this plant since you are not eating its flower buds!  The taste of the stalks is similar to artichoke hearts.

In the fall before a hard frost, cut the plants 8-10" above the ground and mulch well with straw.  It is the crown of the plant that you want to keep from freezing.

Aphids like both plants.  You can use neem or pyrethrin spray to control the aphids if they become a problem.  Do not spray when bees are present.

Artichokes and cardoons are susceptible to powdery mildew, molds and crown rot.  This is why it's important to put them in well drained soil.  Also do not water from overhead.  Use a soaker hose or water around the base of the plant.

Both produce well for 5-7 years.  When they begin to lag, it is time to start new plants.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What to plant for the edible garden in February

Indoor seed starting
Tuesday, February 11, 2020

February is the time the garden begins to wake up, readying itself for the growing season in the Midwest edible garden.  There are a few veggies that can be seeded outdoors and many that can be started indoors to give you a jump on harvests.  Using season extending strategies can also help you harvest sooner.  

Outdoor seeding and planting
There are a few hardy veggies that you can sow outdoors in February.  Outdoor seed starting tips 
*Spinach seed can be scatter sown and will sprout when the temps are right.  Grow spinach-a super nutritious, easy green
*Peas can be tucked into pots and in the garden.  My granny would plant as soon as the soil could be worked, even with a little ice still in the soil!  Time to plant peas!
*Fava or broad beans can also be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.  Grow a European favorite-the fava or broad bean
*This is the time of year that asparagus can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked.
*Mache is also a super winter hardy green that can be sown directly in the garden.   Growing fabulous lettuce and greens
*At the end of the month, hardened off veggie transplants of cabbage, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, pac choi, rhubarb, radicchio, scallions, shallots and spinach can be planted outside.  A spring edible garden
*Many herb plants can also be planted at the end of the month.  Chives, fennel, horseradish, parsley and thyme.  Start a kitchen herb garden!

Early March garden

Indoor seeds to start
There are many veggies that can be started indoors.  The trick to indoor seed starting is to not get too anxious and start seeds way before you can plant them outdoors.  Indoor seed starting tips

Seeds to start indoors now are the ones you will plant outdoors at the end of February and beginning of March.  Be sure to harden them off (gradually get them used to the outdoor temperatures) before putting in the garden or outdoor pot.
Broccoli, cabbage, celery, leek, radicchio, scallions, fennel, marjoram, parsley, summer savory, endive, kale, kohlrabi, leeks/onions/scallions/shallots/chives (if growing from seed), fennel, cold hardy lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, pac choi, radicchio, and scallions.  
Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates

Planting outdoors
Be sure to harden off any transplants that you grew from seed before planting in the garden or outdoor pot.  You'll need to get your transplants used to the outdoor temperatures.  I like to plant outdoors when the forecast is for overcast skies and warmer temperatures for a few days.

For your portable greenhouses, you can grab plants from there to also plant in the garden and start more seeds in the greenhouse.  

You can also use season extenders like portable greenhouses, row covers and cloches to protect your new transplants and give them a warming boost for growing.  The biggest issue with greenhouses and cloches in the spring is they can be 50 degrees warmer inside them than the outdoor air so you have to be diligent in opening them up when the temps start rising into the 40's and 50's on sunny days.  Extend the season with protection for plants

Spring garden prep
Before you start planting, be sure your garden is in tip top shape for the growing season.  Do a soil test to see what nutrients are needed.  Add the nutrients at the beginning of the month so they are available to the plants when they go into the ground.

 Be sure to also apply your mulch on top of the fertilizer and minerals you add to the garden.  This keeps them from being washed off or in the case of nitrogen, being released into the air.  Weed free, self fertilizing, till free garden beds

hIf this is your first time gardening and want to get started but not sure how, try this blog.  Easy kitchen garden

Happy gardening! 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

10 easy and productive veggies to grow

Spring garden with chives, spinach and lettuce in the foreground
Sunday, February 9, 2020

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!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Grow a European favorite-the fava or broad bean

Fava bean pod
Saturday, February 6, 2021

The broad bean originated east of the Mediterranean basin thousands of years ago.  The larger seeded broad bean was first grown in Egypt by 2400 BC and spread across Europe in medieval times.  It was not popular in early American gardens.  Fava beans require cool, wet weather which most of the country does not have naturally.

Fava beans have gained significantly in popularity recently.  They can be eaten when small 2-3” whole or left to grow to full size 8-12” and shelled.  The seeds can be eaten in many ways-whole or made into a humus.  A simple recipe is to sauté in olive oil with garlic, onions and thyme for 4-5 minutes on medium heat, reduce to low and cook for another 5-6 minutes until soft and some of the skins are split.  Season with salt and pepper.

The seeds have a skin on them.  In Europe, they prefer to eat them with the skin as it adds a slight bitterness to them.  If you want to remove the skin, boil for a couple of minutes, then dunk in cold water.  The skin will slip off easily when pinched.

Fava beans can also be planted just for the nitrogen they bring into the soil.  If you are growing for the nitrogen, you will need to cut them before they make beans.  The beans themselves will use up the nitrogen the roots have fixed.

Fava beans can be sown in the fall in Zone 6 or warmer or as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, when the snowdrops bloom and crocus leaves begins to lengthen.  They reach harvest size in 85 days from sprouting.  They should be harvested before the air temperatures are consistently above 85 degrees F.

Fava beans prefer a rich soil, slightly heavy and well drained with a pH of 5.5-7.5.  Lime will help the roots fixate the nitrogen.  As with all legumes, inoculant the seed with rhizobia bacteria.  This helps the roots fix nitrogen to them.

Fava beans should be planted 6” apart about 1-2” deep.  Add 1 cup of bone meal to a 100’ row to encourage growth.  Fava beans are bush type so they don’t need a great deal of support, but perform better if provided with a light trellis.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

February 2020 Edible Garden Planner

Overwintering kale
Sunday, February 2, 2020

Green things start popping up in the garden in February.  This winter has been so warm that they started coming up in early January!  The first up are the perennial edibles and ornamentals like cultivated dandelions, sorrel, arugula, chives, crocus, daffodils, and hyacinths.  Daffodils had flower buds on them mid last month.  Daylilies have broken through the mulch.  Overwintering carrots, cilantro, parsley, onions, kale, leeks, garlic 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)
Fennel  Growing fennel
Leek, if starting from seed
Onions, if starting from seed  Everything to know about growing onions
Shallots, if starting from seed  
Strawberries  Back yard strawberries
Summer savory  

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

For a full seed starting calendar, Indoor Seed Starting Calendar
For both seed sowing and outdoor transplant timing, Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates

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 clear 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 try to capture at the end of the gardening season what I wanted to plant in next year's garden.  Reflecting back on 2018, planning for 2019   This year we are putting on an addition where my existing edible garden is so I will be very limited in space this year.  I'll need to fully leverage growing in pots and using compact varieties as well as being choiceful.  Surprising veggies that can be grown in pots  Veggies for small spaces

  Here is what I definitely have in my garden every year or make sure I still have enough in the freezer to last another year:  herbs, chives, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, green beans, snap peas and lots of flowers!  2020 Edible Garden Plan
Garden planning
For first time or busy gardeners, Easy kitchen garden 

Hang on, Spring is almost here!