Get Growing! Early Spring Gardening
Hey everybody! Happy (almost) early Spring! I know some of you are scratching your heads with that one, but for those of us who garden, we know this period as early Spring and we're ready to dig in the dirt!
We've had 2 beautiful days in a row here in East Tennessee and that means I've had about 50 questions regarding gardening. I'm going to answer a few of those questions here. As we go along in the season I'll continue this thread and try to answer as many as I can so make sure you check back in to read all about gardening throughout the growing season. Gardening is rewarding and, if done correctly, can be accomplished without too much work. Here are some questions I've had recently:
- Is it too early or too late to start my garden? It's really never too early or too late to start gardening; it just might change what you plant right now. For instance, here in East Tennessee (zone 7) February is the perfect time to plant early Spring veggies like cole crops (broccoli and cabbage for instance), carrots, spinach and lettuces. These plants can take cold weather (as long as it's not too cold, but you can always cover them if needed) and will extend your growing season to give you yummy, nutritious food while letting you harvest in the cooler days before summer hits. I try to plant cabbage, broccoli, Swiss Chard, kale, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets and peas the first week of February. I plant seeds of everything except broccoli and cabbage because I'm not crazy. I've never had success with cabbage or broccoli from seeds. Now, with that said, it IS too early for summer veggies like corn, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, etc. You need to wait for a few months on those veggies. (I never plant those before Mother's Day.)
- Are raised beds really worth it? YES. Unless you just want to break your back. Raised beds are the best thing since sliced bread or peanut butter in a jar! We put in raised beds about 10 years ago and have replaced them as they've broken down through the years. There are multiple reasons I love raised beds, but some of the main reasons I love them are:
- you can easily adjust the soil content, increase organic material, add compost and/or adjust pH to your needed level for the fruits and/or veggies you're growing that season in that bed
- you can irrigate without wasting water (Barry put in some drip irrigation hoses that absolutely save us during the summer months. He has them hooked up to rainwater we catch from the roof of our house and they are AMAZING. He says they're not too difficult to install, either. I wouldn't know because I make sure I'm inside eating bonbons when he works.)
- NO WEEDS!!!!!!
- NO WEEDS!!!!!!
- NO WEEDS!!!!!!
- you can easily rotate crops and use companion planting to your benefit
- it's easy to keep predators out of the garden with a little fencing material or other forms of discouragement
- I've heard of companion planting but have no idea what that means. Help! Companion planting is just a fancy term which means you want to plant veggies, herbs and even flowers together to encourage growth, discourage weeds or predators and/or encourage beneficial insects and pollinators. I'll give you a few examples for the early spring and one for summer (I'll have a BUNCH more when it's time):
- carrots with lettuce and/or spinach - I always plant these three veggies together in the early growing season. They work well together and they can be planted at the same time which means you only water one area or raised bed, so less work and less water waste.
- radishes with peas - I plant these together in the early growing season for a couple of reasons. One is that I love pickled radishes (I have shared that recipe with our email list so if you're not on it you're missing out. Pickled radishes are awesome and easy. But they do stink so they're best enjoyed on a picnic or dining al fresco, just being completely honest. But they're so good people eat them anyway!). Another reason is that radishes are the power houses of the soil. So even if you don't use them all in pickling or salad making, they're great for the soil and provide a ton of nutrients your soil needs. This will obviously save you on fertilizing costs. A third reason is that radishes then prepare your soil for what's coming in the hotter months - cucumbers! Radishes and peas are great companions to cukes. I will say I plant cucumbers when and where I pull my peas up. By the time you're ready for cucumbers your peas will be spent anyway. And I use the same trellis for both, which is awesome. Which brings me to
- cucumbers with lettuce - Then once my cukes are up and growing on the trellis I plant Black Seeded Simpson lettuce in their shade. Black Seeded Simpson lettuce is a bibb type lettuce that withstands heat more than other varieties and does quite well in the summer when planted in the shade of the cucumber vines.
- Strawberries and spinach go quite well together. I will warn you that strawberries are tons of work! They're amazing, but if you haven't grown them before beware of the amount of work they take.
- I want a jump on tomatoes and I saw some tomato plants at Lowe's and Wal-Mart. Can't I go ahead and plant them? NO!!!!!! NO!!!!! NO!!!!!! It's not time! They'll die and you will have wasted that money and effort. Also, why are you buying your plants there? Support a local nursery and buy your plants and seeds from a reputable source. Someone with whom you can call and ask questions and who will answer your call! Someone who knows what they're doing!!! Please, please, please. And no. Again. Do not plant your tomatoes until Mother's Day or you'll be sorry (at least if you live in zone 7 - East Tennessee).
Okay, that's it for this session! Let me know if you have other questions and I'll try to answer them. Happy planting!