Your Best Garden Ever- Part 2

potato sprout

Planting season for spring crops begin 6 weeks before the last spring frost, but tomatoes and peppers and other warm season vegetables are planted later. Usually May 10th is considered “frost free” by then. Wait until the days are warm, and night time temperatures are above 50 degrees.

Potatoes: Here’s an idea for growing them. Start out with small store-bought potatoes you like and place them in a warm, sunny window. The sunlight will turn them green, and as the potatoes pucker and shrivel, you’ll begin to see sprouts form on them. These are called seed-potatoes. Prepare the garden area, till or turn over, and rake the soil smooth. Cut the sprouting potatoes in half, so you’ll have several pieces. Be careful not to disturb the sprouts. Plant the sprouting potatoes 3 inches deep and at least 12 inches a part. Potatoes do best in full sun. Don’t lime or fertilize the garden where potatoes will be grown. After the plants have reached a height of 8 inches, begin to hill up the soil around the base of the plants. This will protect the developing tubers from exposure to the sun, too much rain, and little creatures who love potatoes. [They know who they are ]. Mulch around the plants with straw, hay, pine needles, shredded pine bark, etc. After the tops have reached maturity [ 65-75 days ] they’ll stop growing and the leaves will turn yellow and droop. Those seed potatoes will have multiplied and each will have produced 6 or more large potatoes. If you wish to order seed potatoes for planting, choose one of the heirlooms. Suggestions: Daisy gold, dark yellow flesh, Yukon gold, buttery yellow taste and color, the old tried and true standby, Kennebec, smooth and white, or the dark- red variety red norland. No space for growing potatoes? Consider growing them in wine-barrel planters, large terra-cotta planters, or the big plastic planters sold in garden centers. Fill the planters with high-quality top soil and plant the seed potatoes in them.

Green Beans: A fast and easy crop for the home garden. Choose a sunny area, and till up or turn over the soil. If previous green bean plants were not productive, work in some bagged top soil or composted cow manure. Rake these soil amendments in right before planting the seeds. Sow bean seeds four inches a part, and one inch deep after May 1st. Tamp the soil down with the back of a rake, and water the soil. In about ten days, you’ll see light green leaves emerging from the soil. I suggest you plant the bush bean variety. They take up less space and don’t need trellis support. Some varieties that produce in less than 60 days: Blue Lake Bush Beans, Golden Yellow Wax Beans, Tender Green, Top Crop, and Bush Romano. In fact just about any green bean variety will produce in the home garden. Once the plants have produced the last crop, turn the vines under, rake the soil smooth and plant another row of beans ! The vines will decompose in the soil, and add what is known as a nitrogen-fixative. The next harvest of beans will be even more productive. Those little packets of bush green beans sold in garden centers and the Dollar stores are perfect for the small garden. Pick up several packets of them this month, as they’ll be sold out long before the first day of summer [ June 21st ]. As you harvest the last of the lettuce in late May, fill in the empty spaces in the leafy green section with bean seeds. You’ll reap an on-going harvest until late September.

Peppers and Tomatoes: Simple steps for growing great tomatoes and peppers. Tomatoes and peppers are members of the same botanical family, so they are grown in similar ways. Don’t rush to plant them during April. Make sure the nights are warm, otherwise, the soil will be too cold for them, and produce those purple veins in the center of the main stem. This purple striation color is the plants inability to take up potassium due to the cold soil. Wait until May to plant the peppers and tomatoes. About six weeks before your last spring frost date, start seeds indoors under fluorescent lights. Keep the seedlings warm, and the soil moist. If you’re new to gardening, you may wish to purchase small plants at garden centers. Seed starting is easy if you have the lighting and space, otherwise, it’s better to purchase the little starts. Transplant the starts in the garden or outdoor containers during a period of warm, sunny weather. After May 10th would be an ideal time for planting. Choose a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil. Loosen or till the planting area to a depth of 12 inches deep. Mix in a few bags of top soil or Black Kow manure. Work this in well. Dig the planting holes 18 inches apart. In each hole, set the tomatoes or peppers so only the top five or six leaves show at the soil level. Firm the soil around the plants, and water them with a starter solution of one tablespoon of liquid fish emulsion. Give each plant a pint of the solution. If you prefer, you can use Miracle-Gro in place of the fish emulsion. Add one tablespoon of the Miracle-Gro to a gallon of water. Pour some of this around each plant. This starter solution gives the newly planted peppers and tomatoes the best chance for overcoming transplant shock, so don’t skip this final step.

Pull weeds by hand and keep the plants well watered. Before hot weather arrives, mulch with hay, straw, cedar chips, white pine bark or grass clippings. This deter weeds, add nutrients to the soil, and retain soil moisture. Use wire cages and stakes for the tomatoes.  This will keep the branches off the ground, and discourage rabbits and other furry creatures from nibbling on the ripening fruit.

Next: Squash, cucumbers, herbs and flowers. Yes, Spring is coming – 30 days from today !

Blessed Be, sweet ones

~ Meadow Walker

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