March 10, 2009

How to Start Your Summer Garden

If you've never tried gardening and would like to give it a go, here is a simple step-by-step to getting started!

WEEK 1: Look on the back of your seed packet for planting season suggestions. Plan on allowing 4-6 weeks for the plants to grow indoors before placing them outside in your garden.An inexpensive planting mix can be bought at Walmart for around $3. I like to start my plants in my ice-cube trays to see how well they germinate. Stir water into the mix and fill the trays loosely. Use a toothpick or small stick to make a shallow hole to put 2-3 seeds in and cover with a thin layer of the mix. If you like, you can make little flags with toothpicks and sticky notes so that you don't forget which seeds are which! Wait several days to water again so that you don't drown the seeds. Don't let the soil become bone dry, but since the ice-cube trays are quite shallow you may need to water every other day.

WEEK 2-3: You should see little sprouts come up after the first week. If not, you may need to scrape away a bit of the top layer of soil.

WEEK 3-4: Ice cube trays aren't roomy enough for very long! When things are getting crowded you need to thin out the weaker or smaller sprouts from the healthier ones, then transplant them into bigger pots. My husband brought home some used pots from a landscape business, but before they arrived I planted my zucchini starts in plastic cups. I knew they would go crazy, but I didn't expect them to be little giants already! (He thought I may have started my garden too soon - we got some snow this weekend!)

WEEK 5-6: Hopefully you have begun thinking about your garden soil and are getting ready for planting! In my area, this won't be happening for another few weeks. We have heavy muddy clay to work with, so we're going to add a sandy soil mixture and till it into our garden. We also have rabbit and deer issues, along with hungry chickens that will be roaming around in another few months, so we're going to put in some new fencing. If the weather isn't conducive to planting when you'd planned, you may need to transplant the starts again; but let's hope not!