Just about everyone I know has been pouring over seed catalogs for the last month. Eagerness to plant supplants many other priorities and they begin rifling through each newly arrived issue like a 12-year-old boy with a lingerie catalog. Plans for this year’s garden become an obsession that quickly grows out of all reasonable proportions, resulting in a seed and seedling order that could of be better use feeding a small African country.
The thing they should remember is they need not order everything now, and if they wait to order some of the species that should be planted later in the year (that is, May or June), the enthusiasm that germinated in the short, icy days of February will have subsided, and the realism needed for a successful spring planting will yield a healthy harvest.
When planning your garden, be reasonable about how much space you actually have, and how much work you are really willing to put into tilling, preparing, and weeding. Remember that planting and harvesting are the two easiest parts of gardening, and it’s all the stuff that comes in between that can be backbreaking if you overdo it. There are only a few things you should order now, the heartier greens and early spring vegetables that are the harbingers of the summer bounty.
If you would like to start your own peppers and tomatoes from seed, you’ll want to get them going now, indoors, under a grow light and with proper warmth and water. If you are not equipped for that, you can select seedlings from the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog and they’ll send them to you later in the spring when it’s actually time to put them in the ground. Seed Savers is the best choice for the true “heirloom” varieties that lend delicious diversity to your garden.
This is not to say that there is necessarily anything wrong with hybrids. Even the best heirlooms are in a sense hybrids, having been carefully selected over generations to be the best to grow for a particular climate and soil. But do avoid genetically modified seed. This type of Frankenfood could contain genes spliced for any organism, even fish. Setting aside the “yuck” factor for a moment, the health and allergy implications are unknown, and the potential impact of this on the ecosystem could well be catastrophic.
So on this first order, just get your early spring greens like mache and kale. Radishes are wonderful and are among the first things you will be able to plant, as soon as you can dig the soil. Sweet peas love the early spring cold as well. Take a look at the planting instructions for each, consider how much you really do have room for, and don’t order too much.
Meanwhile, take a look at your compost (as discussed here last month). Give it a good turn and make sure your compost bin handled the winter intact. Check the soil, and start pulling back last falls layer of mulch.
If it is a new garden, get a soil sample kit from the county extension office, where for just a few bucks they can tell you what’s good and bad about the soil in that spot so that you can decide what will grow best there or what kind of nutrients it needs (always organic, please!).
When your spring fever begins to break in April, you can start thinking about the giant pumpkins, award-winning squash, and more delicate greens you want to plant. And can we ever have enough herbs in our gardens? Oops, there I go.