Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gardening Thursday – Getting Ready To Plant

Back on June 23, we discussed Fall and Winter Activities which took us through Step 6 of my 14 StepsFor a Successful Garden, which took us into winter, now it’s time to get ready for some serious veggie gardening – obviously the farther north you live the later these things occur.
I ended the June 23 post, with planning your garden and now it’s the first of the year and the seed catalogs are showing up in the mail.  If you are not planning to grow your own transplants, you won’t need to purchase any seeds for a while, but since I sow my brassicas and peppers in the greenhouse in late January, I order my seeds shortly after the first of the year.
I bought a greenhouse and began growing my own transplants several years ago because I wanted more variety than I could get in the local places that provide plants.  They went through a period of greater variety, but now seem to have less choices again as Bonnie is supplying more of them.

While it’s possible to grow healthy and sturdy transplants without a greenhouse, it’s much easier with one.  Trying to grow them in a window generally results in weak, leggy plants due to shorter hours of sunlight.  If you want to grow them without a greenhouse or hot frame, growing them under grow lights can deliver excellent results.
As I understand it there are only a few seed growers in the country and most of the suppliers are just distributors who buy from the growers in quantity and package for resale.  I order seeds from Jung and their sister Totally Tomatoes, Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny’s Seed, Tomato Growers Supply, Pepper Gal, as well as buying locally from Mayo Seeds and Farmers Coop.  There are many other excellent suppliers and these are just the ones I’ve settled on.
If the soil was properly amended in the fall, it should be unnecessary to perform any garden-wide soil amendments in the spring, but rather fertilize the individual plants with the proper blend when planting.
So the first thing I do in the spring is till my garden with the tiller on my tractor as soon as the soil will let me from a moisture standpoint.  It must be dry enough to work up nice and crumbly and not pack down as I drive on it.  Just take a hand full and squeeze it and it is ready if it will crumble easily – if it doesn’t, it’s still too wet.
If the soil remains too wet past the time I want to plant, I may use my Mantis or small rear tine tiller to loosen the top of the soil if it’s dry enough and I’ve been known to plant without tilling if I have to.  For some cool weather crops, it’s critical to get them planted in time to produce a crop before hot weather sets in – spinach for example.
These are the seeds that will actually be sown in the garden and I use the same sources as listed above as well as local greenhouses for the transplants I don’t grow myself.
Unfortunately not all suppliers are reliable and you can get the wrong variety, old seeds that don’t germinate well, and diseased seeds.  I’ve had excellent results with the ones I use and if you’re into organic gardening or heirloom varieties, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirlooms.
This is absolutely critical to the long term health of your garden because once you introduce a disease or pest to your garden via and infected plant, you may have it forever or go through a difficult process to get rid of it.  For this reason I mail order no plants except onion slips and asparagus roots, so I can look over any plants I buy.  It’s important to carefully check each plant for bugs or bug damage, such as holes in leaves, yellow or sagging leaves, and damage and if you are the least bit suspicious, pass on it.
Have a look back at the June 23 post for more details on seed and plant selection.
That’s all for today and next week we’ll plant the spring garden, followed by lawn success the following week.  Here are a few shots of my garden.
Thanks to the cool nights we had this spring (in spite of the very hot days), my peppers set on a bumper crop of peppers, some of which are huge.  In order, these are Big Bertha, Bonnie Green Bell, and Pepperocini.
We’re getting lots of tomatoes now and soon will be in the canning business.  These are Kada Hybrid and Quimbabya - note they've topped the 6 1/2 foot cages.
We’re also getting enough beans and corn to give it away to our friends and these are the onions in their final drying phase.
All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


  1. Thanks for these awesome tips, Larry! I someday hope to start a garden and I'm bookmarking all of your little tutorials!

  2. These gardening tips are just awesome. Thanks for taking the time to write them up and share.

  3. Great thoughts and advice, Larry. You all really do have the onions... Wow!!!!! Wish we lived closer. We'd be your 'best friends'... ha

    Our suet feeder is on our deck. We just use suet from Lowe's (or Walmart). I buy the peanut (or nutty) kind. They love it...

    Our backyard is very shady with many large shade trees. We are near the golf course fairway --but far enough away to have privacy.

    Lots of people hook their suet feeders to big shade trees. BUT--make sure you attach it really well. Raccoons are known to steal the whole thing (feeder and suet)... I lost two before I started attaching it better.

    Good Luck... I think you will get some woodpeckers there.

  4. Are those some of the onions your granddaughter was picking? Nice that you're so organized in dealing with your garden's bounty!

  5. Once we get more land we will definitely be building a small green house. There's a house a few miles away from us that has a nice big one and I have seriously thought about approaching the guy and seeing if he would "lease" us some space in his next spring.


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