Summer vegetables and transplanting

Not everything is quite ready to be planted directly into the garden bed in April. I will start zucchini and peppers in smaller containers indoors, where the nights are hopefully warmer than outside. I collected extra plant containers over the last year to fill with soil and the zucchini and pepper seeds.

Zucchini
Fill the container with soil and fertilizer and plant the seed, according to the seed package directions. Water and set in a container indoors near a window. About 2 weeks after I did this, one of the zucchini plants had sprouted and the other 6 showed no sign of a growing plant. This seemed really unusual. So I lightly dug up the seed and discovered that none of the seeds showed any signs of sprouting. Must not have been a great batch of seeds. I h ave since started over with new seeds.

PeppersDSC_0030
Peppers are both delicious and expensive, so I have decided to take on the challenge of trying to grow them. Again, I used plastic plant containers and filled them with vermiculite, which can be used a seed germination. I then set them inside of glass dishes and filled the dishes with water. If I put water directly into the vermiculite it would cause the vermiculDSC_0029ite to float and overflow. This way, the vermiculite will soak up the water. I planted the seeds per directions on the package. I set them in front of the window. I spray them with a water bottle every week. Wish me luck!

Tomatoes
This year, I will plant tomatoes into pots. They can take up a lot of space in the garden bed, so I bought 4 big plastic pots and will fill them with tomatoes mid-end of May.

Green Beans
Green beans are the perfect summer snack. Since they are a summer vegetable so I wanted to wait until it gets just a little bit warmer to seed directly into the garden bed. I will plant these beginning-mid May. Beans do not transplant well, so plan to seed when you know there is no risk of freeze.

OthIMG_0226er Veggie Starters 
This is a great time to start any vegetables that you know you will want more of after you harvest the first planting. I have started a few containers of lettuce seeds. I will probably do this for my spinach and swiss chard. This way, when you have harvested all of your vegetable, you have already jump started the next round to plant directly into the bed.

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Planting your garden beds

If you have read my previous posts, you have planned what you want to grow and where you will grow it, prepared your soil, and are ready to plant. Before you start planting, be sure you have done the following:

  • Planned out what you want to grow and where (and of course have purchased your seeds)
  • Prepared your beds for planting by nurturing your soil for a healthy and happy environment for your vegetables
  • Know what to plant now for spring growing and what you need to seed indoors and transplant outside for summer

Grab your seeds, shovel, fertilizer, measuring tape, and sketch of what you plant to grow per square foot, and head outside. DSC_0002

Mark each square foot. I am a particular person, so I actually measure and mark each square foot of my bed. This makes it easy for me to ensure I am sticking to my planting plan.

RDSC_0002efer to your sketch. In the post “Planning your garden beds”, you made a list of the vegetables you will grow per square foot. Reference this to know how many squares to dedicate to each crop. For example, I decided to grow 15 sq. ft of lettuce so I will dedicate 15 squares of my bed to planting lettuce seeds. You also know that can grow 4 lettuce plants/ sq. ft so you will make 4 holes/ sq. ft for your lettuce seeds.

Start planting from the inside out. It is much easier to first plant the inside of your bed and then move towards the outside so you are sure not to step on your seeds.DSC_0010

Plant 2 seeds per hole. To increase your chances of sprouting a healthy veggie, plant two seeds/hole. If both seeds sprout, pull out one of the plants so that the other can continue to have the space to grow.

Follow the instructions on the seed package. To know how deep to make the hole and how much dirt to cover the hole with, refer to the seed package.

Add fertilizer. After your planted the seed and as you cover the hole with dirt, sprinkle in some fertilizer with the dirt that is covering the hole.

Water. Once your beds have been planted, water.

Watch your seeds grow!

Preparing garden beds for planting

Before planting your seeds, you need to tend to your soil, a very important ingredient for healthy, happy plants. To create better soil, consider the following:

  • IMG_6389Do a soil test. I picked up a soil test for about $20 at the local hardware and gardening store. As I expected, my soil was in need of all the key plant foods: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potash. Knowing this, I created a fertilizer with all of these foods that I mixed into the soil before planting and right after planting the seeds.
  • Add orgaDSC_0015nic matter/compost. Most soil needs help to have more space for air, water, and the roots to penetrate. It is important to mix in organic matter/ compost at least once/year. I have started a compost bin and use this to add organic matter to my garden beds. You can also buy compost. Mix this into your soil prior to planting or just add it on top of the soil and let it decompose.
  • Add lime. This year, I decided to add lime to my soil to raise the PH level, making it more neutral and a more comfortable environment for worms, plants, and even fertiDSC_0014lizer. The soil test will also tell you the pH level of your soil so you will know if it is low and therefore more acidic and in need of lime.
  • Add fertilizer. As mentioned above, I added fertilizer to the beds prior to planting and immediately after planting before watering.

Timeline:

February:

  • Add compost – I shoveled and mixed in the compost. Some experts recommend to let the compost decompose into the soil and not to break it up with a shovel.
  • Add lime

March/April:

  • Added fertilizer and mixed in with shovel (again breaking up the soil)
  • Leveled the soil in the beds for planting

Now that you have a plan for growing your vegetables and have prepared your soil, it is time to plant!

Planning your garden beds

Now that you are day dreaming about all of the vegetables you want to grow, how are you going to make it happen? It is time to plan how you will plant the vegetables in your garden beds.

How much space do you have?
Using the square foot gardening method, first determine how much square footage you have to work with. I have 2 large garden beds, both 10ft x5ft, for a total of 50 square feet per bed.

How many plants can you have per square foot?
I reference the book “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew for this information. Make a list of the vegetables you want to plant and how many you can fit per square foot. Here is my list:

  • Beets: 6 per square foot (I planted more than this last year and did not feel they had enough space to grow)
  • Swiss chard: 4/sqr ft
  • Lettuce: 4/sq. ft
  • Spinach: 9/sq. ft
  • Broccoli: 1/sq. ft
  • Radishes: 16/sq. ft
  • Leeks: 6/sq. ft
  • Green onion: 6/sq. ft
  • Beans: 9/sq. ft
  • Carrots: 16/sq. ft
  • Onion sets: 16/sq. ft
  • Summer squash/ Zucchini: 1/sq. ft
  • Arugula/rocket: 6/ sq. ft

Key considerations:

  • Don’t plant the same thing you planted in that bed the year before. It is important to rotate your crops. This mitigates the build up of pests and can improve soil structure.
  • Try to know the antagonists and companions of your vegetables, at least the first time you plant, so you know what you should try to plant together and keep apart. For example, lettuce, carrots, and radishes grow well together so try to plant these in the same bed or near each other. Don’t be too hard on yourself because this doesn’t always work out. I reference the book, “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons for this information.
  • Consider grouping vegetables by the amount of sun/shade they need.
  • How will the plant grow when it is larger? If it is really big or expands, how will that effect the vegetables next to it? For example, I planted Zucchini next to the broccoli since the broccoli grows large and high so the zucchini can extend into the broccoli without overtaking it.
  • How much do you want of each vegetable? If you really love a vegetable dedicate a larger amount of square footage, if not, consider a square foot or two. I love lettuce, so I am giving it 6 square feet, whereas I only use green onion for seasoning, so will plant 1 square foot.
  • Know what time of the season to plant each crop – spring, summer, or fall. You may have a crop that is spring only and you can then once harvested, you can use that space for a summer crop.

Sketch your planting planDSC_0002
I am a visual person so I sketched both of my beds and penciled in what I would plant in each square foot. This is important because you will be much more organized and prepared when you actually plant your beds. This will also ensure that you utilize every square foot of the garden bed. I planned these based on what I would be growing in spring and summer.

Now you have a plan, next, get your soil ready for planting.