When the seed packets start getting delivered in the spring it is very hard to not start throwing everything into the ground at once. I want peas! I want carrots! I want tomatoes! Every plant however, has its own personal space and will not perform if that space is not given.
On the back of those seed packets there is some information that is very important to read. The first is the planting depth. The rule of thumb is you plant the seed as deep as it is large: for a carrot seed this is just below the surface, for a bean this is about an inch down.
The second piece of information to look for is the plant spacing. It will read something like, "sow 1 seed every inch in rows spaced 12" apart" that would be a safe bet for a carrot. Often after this line reads something like "thin to 6 plants per foot" which is also very important. Thinning is just as important as proper spacing!
Spacing is important because plants require water, light and nutrients. When carrots, for example, are planted but not thinned they are competing for the same root space, the same water and the same sunlight. This yields the same, very small, carrot roots. When provided with a few inches to grow it roots and shoots, and far enough away from the next plant so that it has its own water supply, it can thrive.
Every crop has its own requirement, and you will learn these with experience. Tomatoes cannot be planted a foot from each other. That is how diseases happen.
Companion planting is a great concept, but when it is poorly implemented your garden turns into a mess. There are books about companion planting that can help you be successful. Allow me to use the title of the book "Carrots Love Tomatoes" as an example. Carrots are slow growing, and do not like to be crowded. Tomatoes also grow relatively slowly and like to grow vertically. When planted at the same time, the carrots get ample light and water while the tomato is young. By the time the tomato reaches maturity the carrot is done growing and ready to harvest as well.
Now allow me to use the fictional book "Tomatoes hate to be planted 6 inches from peppers" as an example. Tomatoes and peppers need to be planted on at least six square feet per plant. This is a roughly a square of 2.5 x 2.5. Unknowing practitioners of square foot gardening may think, "a square for a tomato, a square for a pepper, a square for a tomato, a square for a pepper." More than likely the peppers will not produce and the tomatoes will die from diseases if this is done.
So read your seed packets and trust them!
And now you know!
Garlic is an easy and rewarding crop to grow, but it requires patience and forethought. Garlic gets planted in the fall, about six weeks before the first frost and is not harvested until the middle of the summer.
Garlic is a perennial crop that is planted and harvested as an annual. If you look closely while hiking sometimes you can spot garlic plants growing in bunches. Garlic sprouts from it cloves, so when wild it is densely packed. In production agriculture we plant each clove far enough from its neighbors to produce large bulbs.
Garlic reproduces both sexually and asexually. The division of cloves is the asexual reproduction. Laissez faire garlic gardeners may have seen the sexual reproduction of the garlic plant in its large pink or white circular flower. The flower will put off very small garlic seeds that are much harder to propagate than the cloves.
The reason I say "laissez faire" is that allowing the garlic plant to produce its flower is not helpful for bulb production, and will actually "steal" energy that would have otherwise gone into the bulb. The flower stem is referred to as a scape, and when plucked at its first growth, can be used in cooking as a garlic substitute.
Garlic is the first plant to pop out of the ground in the spring. It is frost tolerant and comes up relatively early. It grows vegetatively for a few months, reaching full size around Late-May or June, when it pushes out its scapes. The garlic then focuses on bulb production for its remaining months.
Then, one day it dies.
That is to say it has achieved its goal, and created seeds for the next generation. The plant dries out and looks dead. This is when you harvest and cure it for use in the kitchen and for planting next year's crop.
In the future I will write more about garlic scapes, garlic harvesting and the garlic curing process.
And now you know!
What a beautiful and warm March we had! The birds sang, the flowers bloomed, and the fruit trees became confused.
One of the major reasons for not getting fruit from your Apples, Peaches, Cherries and other fruit trees is erratic spring temperatures.
On sunny Friday, I was working in one of my client's gardens and saw a beautiful but unfortunate sight:
This all happened too early in our season for our climate. Trees benefit from the temperatures slowly warming from winter into spring.
The good news for this customer is that the tree had only been planted last year and would not have produced fruit this year any way. The bad news however is that had this tree been older, we would have had to wait until next year's blooms.
And now you know!
Weeks ago I wrote about Cold Frames, the sturdy method for growing vegetables in the deep of winter. Today I will talk about their movable cousin, row covers.
Modern row covers are a lightweight fabric made of spun polypropylene. They are made in various weights for different applications, such as frost protection, insect protection, and light infiltration.
Heavyweight row covers are used for frost protection and can hold about 8 degrees above the ambient temperature. They are thick and therefore do not let as much light through as their lightweight counterparts, but provide superior protection in the cold.
Lightweight row covers can be used for light frost protection, but are better utilized for pest control during the summer. The row cover acts as a barrier between your crop and the insects searching for them. This is incredibly useful for eggplants, of which get annihilated by flea beetles when they are young. The fabric is light enough to not cause huge temperature increases in the summer as a plastic row cover would.
It is important to note that row covers are often called "frost blankets." During a nighttime frost, water in the air condenses on the ground, and then freezes due to the temperature. This is what causes frost damage on your crops. The row cover over your crops becomes the "ground" in which the frost settles, saving your plants.
Row covers are incredibly useful because you can move them around your garden. I often use them early in the season to create a micro-climate for early greens and roots, then move the cover to protect my tomatoes and peppers from late frost, then move them to protect broccoli from cabbage loopers, before bringing them back to use for late season greens.
And now you know!