The spring is a great time to start your strawberries, raspberries and other small fruits. We love strawberries and raspberries. Both are pretty easy to grow, but you want to start out right. I could write much on the subject, and many have, but here are few tips to consider.
Buy bare root from the store and not your neighbor. There are many good meaning people that are willing to split their berries, but you just dont know what you are going to get. If you do, then get the free stuff. Buying bare root from a reputable supplier gives you a good chance for success especially since you are going to rely on these plants for numerous years, not just one.
Next, for raspberries, start with a 3-6 inch raised bed. Just 18-24 inches wide is all you need. By raising the bed, you are allowing for good drainage. Berries have roots that can easily rot, so raise the bed and don’t overwater. Strawberries love water so make sure to water deeply but not everyday. Start with every 3 days and see if that works.This will also help your yields. As for raspberries, at least once a week or more, depending on your mounding and drainage.
Last, make sure there is room to rototill on either side of your raspberries. By doing this each year you make sure your raspberries don’t creep where they are not supposed to go. As for strawberries, cut the runners off if they are going where they shouldn’t. If you have particular questions about either of these, just ask and I will write more on the subject.
Planting peas marks the beginning of the garden in most cases. Peas are normally the first out due to the fact that they are so hardy. They like cooler soil temps and can withstand mild frost. That being said, there is not much gain by starting too early since they will just lay dormant or grow very slowly if the temperatures are too low. Soil temps must be over 45 degrees which normally mean that your average night time temperature should not be below 40 degrees. In most places this can mean sometime in March. I wait until about April 1st. For your earliest date use the planting date finder.
Pea seeds benefit from “chitting” or pre-sprouting. This means that you will begin the germination process before you put them in the ground. The purpose of this is so that they germinate faster despite the cool soil temperatures. To pre-sprout your pea seeds, soak a paper towel and place your seeds on the towel. Fold over the paper towel to encase the seeds. Put in a ziplock bag and keep in a warm area. After a few days you should see roots coming out of the seeds. Now put them in the ground.
Do not plant too deeply. Planting depth should be two times the diameter of the seed. Peas need plenty of water. I usually water every three days with a drip hose for at least an hour or two. If you get bush peas you will not need a trellis, if you get climbing peas then you should get a trellis about 4 feet tall. I usually get the wire 4ft fencing at a home improvement store.
Keep the plant well picked and harvest when plump but not old. Young peas taste better.
Normally there is no fertilization required except for your beginning of the year complete fertilizer till in.
In a few weeks I will be starting to plant my garden. For others, this may have already happened. If you are one of those with some time left, here are some things to think about before you plant.
Turning your garden over- If you are like me, you may have some of what grew in the last part of the fall and during the winter that needs to be tilled in. This is actually good because it adds organic material to your soil and will improve it. However, you need to do it now. You should let 4 weeks go by, after tilling under lots of organic material, before you plant. This allows time for the freshly turned soil to decompose a bit before you plant. If you just have a few weeds then you dont have to worry about this.
For a new garden plot, this is essential. I have a space that had grass on it that I want to till under, so I must give myself 4 weeks before planting.
Watering system- You will want to establish your watering system well before you plant. I use a drip system and if I dont set that up before I plant, I always seem to run out of time and then I dont have a water source to get my seeds germinated. Set it up first and well before and then you wont scramble after you have planted.
Complete fertilizer- At the beginning of the year it is important that you add a complete fertilizer like 16-16-8 or some variation to get a nice source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If you are an organic grower consider greensand, rock powders and put in lots of compost.
Speaking of compost you want to get that incorporated into the garden soon, especially if it not completely broken down. Remember to not put too much compost or else you will make the soil too hot. Just spread out a thin layer over the whole garden and till in.
Here is my garden ready for planting a couple of years ago as an example. Ideally it will look like this before it is planting day. If you have square foot gardens then the same principles apply.
Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable for home gardeners and many ask “When to plant tomatoes?”. If you are planting your own seeds then you need to start them 4 weeks before they are ready to transplant outdoors. If you are buying transplants from the store then you need to wait until after your last frost, unless you protect them via some mini-greenhouse method like hot-kaps. If you protect them then you go plant them about 3 weeks earlier. So does this answer your question? Of course it doesn’t which is why people continually ask “When to plant tomatoes?”
This is one of the reasons why I started VegeNag.com. VegeNag will actually give a you solid date. For example, for my area 99338, if I go to the BEST plant date finder it tells me that May 19th is the BEST date to plant tomatoes outdoors. Now that I have a date, I can easily make my calculations if I want to start under hot-kaps or start seeds indoors. I hope you will find VegeNag useful for calculating and nagging you on all your planting dates and other important dates like seeds starting, fertilization, maturity and others.
Remember this last tip, don’t use the big box stores for determining your dates. Last year I saw full grown tomato starts on Mar 1st, ready to buy, more than 2 months before my ideally planting date. No Wall-O-Water would have kept that tomato from either dying in a frost or severely stunting its growth. While many stores will sell you Christmas stuff in September to try to get you to buy early, don’t fall into this trap with gardening. Be patient and start the process at the right time.
Germinating seeds indoors can be tricky, especially for some vegetables. Germination requires a combination of humidity, soil temperature, moisture, seed depth and sometimes light. Providing the ideal conditions will allow quick germination which is essential to minimize fungus growth and other potential problems. The instructions laid out here are general instructions that apply to most all vegetable seeds, there are some minor exceptions to these rules, but lets start with the general principles.
Humidity should be high so that the air does not dry out the soil or seed too fast. You can manufacture this humidity simply by putting a dome on your seed tray while heating your soil. This in combination with moist soil will keep humidity high while germinating. Note the condensation on the top of the dome, you want this condensation.
So how to keep soil temperature high? Well you want at least room temperature soil, but ideally you should have 80-85 degree soil. This is achieved with a germination mat. I have also had success with putting my seed tray over a heat vent or on top of the dryer. Find your warmest room in the house and do your germinating there.
Moisture is vital. Completely soak your soil medium before planting your seeds. Drain off any excess water and then put your dome on the seeds until they germinate. For longer germination schedules you will need to add luke warm water to keep the soil moist. Do not over water because this will encourage disease and/or fungus. After watering, make sure to drain any water that was not soaked up by the soil. Also make sure to water from the bottom so that you don’t disrupt your seedling. You can spray water via a mister on top if you like.
If you plant your seeds too deep you are just shooting yourself in the foot. Plant seeds very shallow, like 1/4 inch max. I usually put the seed in the dimple I created in the soil and then just dust on some peat moss on top so that with an easy blow from my mouth I could expose the seed. This will ensure quick emergence.
Most vegetable seeds need light to germinate but this can just be the ambient light. I do not put grow lights until I see green emergence.
When you see green, prop the dome up for a day before you take it all the way off. Once the domes are off, turn on the lights and keep air moving. More on that later.