With all this rain it may seem hard to believe, but Spring is just around the corner.
We all know what that means. It is time to start planning your 2013 garden.
If this is your first year growing a garden, or if you are trying something different such as growing your own seedlings for the first time, then this entry is for you. Below I have compiled a step-by-step approach to starting your garden this spring.
Step One - Decide what you are going to grow.
This can be done at any time before planting begins, so before late February. You need to look at the growing space you have available and figure out what kinds of crops you want to fill it with. This sounds relatively simple but there are a lot of things to consider. Are you growing in a plot or in containers? Do you have a spot with full sun or are you limited to partial sun? Are you growing crops that will take an entire season to grow (eg, corn), last an entire season (eg, squash or lettuce), or crops that can be sown several times (eg, beets or radishes). All of these things must be considered when planning out your garden.
For example, you want to ensure that you don't end up crowding out or shading plants with things like corn, squash, sunflowers, and other plants that either grow tall or spread out. You also want to make sure you start seedlings early enough, and that you are ready to direct seed as soon as the ground is ready for you.
The best way to design your garden is to draw out a diagram. This allows you to see how everything will fit together once you have it in the ground. Trust me, it's not so easy to figure it out at planting time!
Step Two - Start your seedlings.
Late February is usually when I begin my first seedlings. For myself, this would be the time I start my marigolds, nasturtium, and basil. I am also going to try onions this year (I haven't had much luck with them in the past). Other herbs and flowers I tend to direct seed. I believe sunflowers and corn could also be started now as well.
I start my tomatoes and peppers around mid-March. They can be started earlier but be prepared to need lots of room as they grow very quickly.
The easiest way to decide when to start your seedlings is to look at the seed packet, or, alternately, Google it to see when you need to get started.
How does one start seedlings in February? Obviously the lack of warmth and natural light is an issue. You will need at the very least a grow light. Ideally you will also get a warm pad, or place your plants in a warm location, to encourage growth. I have a very basic set up in my kitchen - one small grow light on my kitchen shelves - but it has served me well for a few years now. I usually move to natural light during the day, when possible, after the equinox.
I do recommend using seed starter for your seedlings. Although some people do say that compost or regular soil works just as well you are risking disease and contamination of your plants when they are at their most vulnerable.
Step Three - Direct seed and plant your seedlings
Once spring is well underway, usually around early to mid-May, it is time to start putting your plants outside.
Plants can be put outside earlier if they are in a protected spot such as a covered deck. Plants that will be exposed to the harsh environment without any protection, however, shouldn't be planted until the risk of a frost or near freezing weather is over. In Vancouver, May is usually a safe bet for this.
Seedlings should be hardened off before they are planted outside. This means setting them outside for a gradually increasing amount of time each day until they are accustomed to the harsher climate of the outdoor world.
When direct seeding you don't need to worry about hardening off, but be sure to read the seed packet to see if seeds need to be prepped prior to planting. Some seeds, especialy legumes, sprout better if soaked in water for 24 hours before being placed in the ground.
Read seed packets or Google to find out how deep and close together your seeds should be, and for the ideal time of year to plant them. Since every type of plant is different and everyone likes growing different things I'm not going to go into details in this how-to about how to grow particular plants.
Step Four - Maintaining your garden
Planting your garden is an ongoing process. As things mature and are harvested more things can be planted even into July. In addition some crops can be grown starting in September so you can feasibly continue planting for the entire growing season!
Make sure you plan in advance what crops you will plant once your first crop rotation is harvested, and it is good for the soil to change up what crops are grown in each location . It's also a good idea to add nutrients to the soil prior to growing and after the growing season. Some like to add compost to the soil in between plantings.
Do you have any questions about getting ready for the upcoming growing season? If you do please put them in the comments section below!