Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting started in the garden

After a weekend of hours outside in the yard, my muscles screamed in relief at being exercised once again in the garden. Yes, the digging and bending and squatting reintroduced those muscles to their typical spring soreness, but it’s a welcome ache.

In order to eat from the garden all year long, it’s necessary to either garden yourself or find a reliable local food source in your community. This is the time in Kentucky when the weather typically allows us to begin stepping outside to get started on this year’s planting adventures.

So what is it gardeners should be doing in March? I learn a little something new every year, from articles I read as well as fellow gardeners who are always happy to share what they know. Here are a few tasks to consider:

1) Decide what you want to plant. If you’re new to gardening, start small and purchase plants that are easier to begin from started plants (cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) and buy seeds for what can easily begin in your own soil (corn, squash, lettuce, greens, etc.).

2) Think about the best places to plant in your yard. Where do you get the most sunlight during the growing months? Remember that the sun shifts throughout the seasons so the sunny spots you see in your yard now might not be so at the same times and for the same length in two months. Also, trees will be recovering their leaves, which will provide a shade you likely don’t see in your yard now.

3) Make a garden plan on paper. It will help you decide how much you can put into your space. Keep in mind that tall crops, like corn, can shade some vegetables around them. Crops that vine, like cucumbers and pumpkins, will travel around your garden. And, because that cauliflower plant is small when you buy it doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Allow space for plant growth.

4) If you do decide to start seedlings yourself, put them in a very sunny, warm window in the house, keep the soil moist and cover with a plastic top or plastic wrap to promote the heat and humidity that encourages sprouting.

5) Prepare your soil. If the soil is heavy and clay-like, you’ll want to add compost to improve it. Your local Extension office should be able to test the soil for you if you have questions about its acidity.

6) Get a hoe, shovel and pruning sheers to use throughout the season.

7) If you already have fruit bushes or trees in your space, as well as flower bushes, March is the time to prune.

I’m hoping we can get our onions and potatoes to plant within the week. That would be an even stronger sign to me that spring really is on its way!

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