A locally-owned nursery in my area has gardening classes on Saturday and I attended two. The best part – they were free. That, and they had popcorn.
Side note: (Cue the angels singing) Isn’t this garden center fabulous? I was in my height of glory, perusing the plants and colorful pots between classes. It made me yearn for spring.
I wanted to take home all of these colorful plant stands and hooks. They are adorable. (I may or may not be recreating this look – on my budget. Stay tuned.) And of course I loved all the pots. I could have brought home a Prius-load.
And, did I mention that there were succulents? I had to drag myself away from the one on the left. Isn’t it interesting?
Anyhoo – one of the classes was about Veggie Gardening, which we are really getting going on at the NewlyWoodwards‘ this year. I took a lot of interesting tid-bits away from the class. So I wanted to share the highlights with you, in case, like me, you are also beginning a foray with gardening in 2009. Trust me, we aren’t the only ones. In addition to the Obama’s gardening at the White House, it is estimated that edible gardening will be up 19% in 2009. Plus, having it written down is a good practice for me, so I don’t forget what I learned. (Note: I’m no expert, this is just from my notes. Please correct errors if you notice them.)
Top take-home resources: Check out Burpee’s new gardening site (burpeehomegardens.com) for lots of interesting tips about gardening, including a vast array of FAQs. This is, by far, one of the best gardening site that I have found in my research, particularly if you are a beginner. However, it seems to focus on the main vegetables and herbs, so you may not find the unique varieties here. My favorite part is the area discussing companion plants, which will tell you what plants to plant together.
Top factoid: Did you know that green peppers will turn red and then yellow over time? They are the same plant – red and yellow are just harvested later, and thus sweeter.
The Four P’s:
(Here are some highlights of the presentation – by no means comprehensive.)
1. Planning your garden.
- First-time gardeners should stick to gardens no larger than 25 x 25. (Can you imagine going any larger?) Write it down!
- Your garden should be near the house (if possible), in full-sun (at least 6 hours) and on a level site. (Note: Salad greens, broccoli, chard and cabbage will only tolerate 4-6 hours of sun.)
2. Preparing your soil.
- Soil is uber-important! The best time to work the soil is in the fall. But, if you didn’t, it’s not too late!
- Wait to work the soil until near the frost-free date (late April/early May here). Before tilling, add 3-4 inches of organic matter (compost). Once spread, use a garden tiller to turn soil until it’s completely mixed in.
- Do not use top soil – it does not add any nutrients to your soil! Use garden soil, cow manure, cotton bur or mushroom compost (or a combination).
- For container gardeners, consider self-watering containers and use fresh, potting soil. Remember that potting soil cannot be re-used year after year.
- Product recommendation (which Ryan also endorses): Use Preen Vegetable Garden Organic Weed Preventer for your garden and even your lawn (make sure you see the purple organic label). It’s made of 100% corn gluten, and was developed by folks at Iowa State University (WOOT WOOT!). Avoid those harsh chemicals.
(Don’t use this is you are direct-sowing. It won’t allow seed germination.)
3. Planting your garden.
- Starting seeds indoors is a little less expensive than buying transplants from a greenhouse.
- You should be starting your seeds now (if you are in the upper mid-west).
- Water or mist with room temp water in a slow stream. Remember that these are babies. You wouldn’t throw your newborn baby in a hot shower. Don’t do it to your little seedlings.
- Fertilize every 7-10 days after first true leaves have formed (1/2 strength with water-soluble fertilizer).
- Thin out seedlings when plants are 1 inch tall and after first true leaves develop. leave the strongest looking plants in each pod.
- Harden up your seedlings (or seedlings you purchase at the garden center) by bringing them outside for 10-14 days before planting them outside.
- Plant tomatoes and broccoli deeper for stability and support.
- Water plants immediately after transplanting.
- How to know if it’s time to water? Soil feels cool and damp but doesn’t wet finger.
- Container vegetables need to be fertilized and watered more than in-ground.
4. Picking your vegetables.
- Harvest beans, corn and peas as soon as they ripen.
- Harvest broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, radish, squash, tomato and zucchini a few days after ripening.
- Leave beets, carrots, kale, leeks, pumpkins and winter squash for a few weeks.
The class really helped me solidify the basics that I had read online and in books. In the next weeks, I will share our garden action plan for 2009, which includes planting some veggies, lots of herbs, and annuals and perennials – some in the ground, some in pots and some in window boxes. I cannot wait!
So, anything you want to share that’s really important for me to know as I’m getting started?