This might seem like putting the cart before the horse….but before you buy seeds and lay out your fantastic garden, you might want to give a bit of thought to what you want to put in the ground.
This isn’t about zone or space, this is about time, money and actually enjoying what you grow instead of doing battle with it.
Plants or Seeds
The most basic question is do you want to put plants in the ground or raise your own plants from seed? The most basic answer is how much time do you have?
If you’re like me and you’ve been gardening for a while (or you have a friend who is a hard core gardener), you probably do both. But if you’re new to the gardening game, you may want to start with plants.
Buying plants gives you a chance to see if you really do like this gardening thing before you invest time and a bit of money in raising your own plants from seed. I tend to do both. I buy plants from the Amish farmers but I also raise vegetables from seed.
Growing from seed has some advantages, for example, you can plant heirlooms that you just can’t buy anywhere. And you can condition your seed, by planting and harvesting for a couple of years which makes them even more suited to your soil.
I love growing from seed but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- It does add a bit of time to your schedule because you have to start them indoors, in February and March (if you live in Zone 6b as I do).
- The seeds may not sprout so you would have to buy plants, anyway.
- You need a controlled environment – temperature and air movement – when the seeds are sprouting and until they get their second, true set of leaves.
- You will have to pay attention to the seeds – keep them moist but don’t drown them. (Here’s where an osmotic planting system like the one sold by Gardens Alive comes in handy.)
Heirloom or Hybrid
By the way, if you want to save seeds from your plants this coming year and use them in the garden the following year, make sure you don’t buy hybridized seeds. Why?
The simplest explanation is hybrid seeds are produced through cross-pollination, the mixing of plants of two different types for a specific reason, such as bigger fruit, disease resistance, a different look, etc. But the problem with hybrid seeds is you won’t be able to harvest further seeds from the fruit they produce.
Buy some tomato seeds of a specific variety, grow them and then harvest the fruit. Save the seeds, and you may get the same sort of tomatoes…or you may wind up with a different variety altogether. Or worse still, the seeds may be sterile.
Heirloom seeds, on the other hand, will produce the exact same type of fruit year after year, generation after generation.
Playing With Plants
I’m aces with tomatoes — all heirloom or organic seed — from Grow Italian or Territorial Seeds. My blueberries yield over 60 quarts every year and my Montmorency cherries are a close second with 50 plus quarts. Pear trees are just starting to bear fruit and the pluots are eagerly anticipated every summer.
But my fig trees are good one year and not so good the next. And the peach and apple trees bear really bad fruit – spotty and buggy. Cantelope grow beautifully in my soil but taste like dirt. Broccoli Rabe comes up fast and easy but flowers before I can harvest it.
Potatoes love the soil but always fall prey to Colorado Potato Beetles and wire worms.
Knowing what I can’t grow upset me when I was a younger gardener but this old girl understands that knowing what she can’t grow is even more important than knowing what she can. Why?
I no longer waste time or space on those veggies and fruits that just are not going to produce. I spend that time honing my skills at growing and harvesting the myriad of foods that like my soil, my weather, my temperatures, wind and rain.
This is where I really experimented and where some of the worst carnage of my early gardening days happened. But here’s a bit of advice that I got from my mom.
Mom Really Does Know Best
My mother’s garden in Virginia was 5 times the size of mine, literally. At the age of 82, she was still out there in the early morning mist, hoeing her rows, weeding, watering and talking (yes, talking) to her beans, tomatoes, cabbage and corn.
While visiting one day, after a particularly large potato disaster in my garden – death by Colorado Potato Beetle – I whined that I would never be as good a gardener as she was. Nothing ever died in her garden.
Mom laughed, leaned on her hoe and said, “Of course things die in my garden: I just turn them under and plant something else.”
Mom had to close my mouth because my jaw dropped about a foot. It was like an epiphany – Mom killed plants too! There was hope for me. And there is hope for you, too.
So let’s dive into what I learned while wiping out whole populations of plants! Maybe what I share will help decrease the number of “interments” in your fruit and veg plots.
Next week, an organic gardening favorite, tomatoes — how to start them, raise them, feed them, protect them and oh, yes, eat them!