By Mary Ellen Shaw
Well, planting time is just around the corner! On Memorial Day weekend garden centers will be overflowing with people who are full of enthusiasm. They are excited about planting flowers to beautify their yards and planting veggies to enjoy throughout the summer and into fall.
I love gardening to the point where my husband, Peter, often tells me, “You make a lot of work for yourself!” That comment is first made when I start seeds in mid-April and have to nurture them along until they turn into plants and are ready to go into the ground. That will happen soon and the next phase of their development means less oversight by me.
I was talking to someone who told me her husband planted a full vegetable garden last year in late May. About a month later he was tired of taking care of it and most of the contents died. As she told me that story it sounded like a lesson was learned from that experience…plant only what you are willing to take care of. Bigger is not always better! A couple of healthy tomato plants and a few cucumbers are better than a garden “full of nothing!”
If you want to keep it simple, container gardening is one option. I always have flowers in planter boxes and pots placed in various parts of our yard for a touch of color in those places. Hanging baskets are also a great way to add color.
When it comes to growing veggies in containers lettuce works well for me. I use four 2’x3’ boxes that my handy husband made for me. Having four boxes allows lettuce to be in different growing stages so there is always fresh lettuce to be picked. The boxes are 3 feet off the ground so not only are they easy to tend but I don’t have to share their contents with the neighborhood rabbit. I am willing to put a few lettuce leaves under the boxes, along with some carrot tops that I cut off after picking them. So Mr. or Mrs. Cottontail gets a treat from the garden, too.
In our veggie garden everything, except tomatoes, is directly sown into the ground from seeds. I buy them during the winter sales in January or February and just seeing those packets at that time of year warms me up! So what seeds work well when directly sown? For me it’s: beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, radishes and zucchini. Radish seeds can be sown in the spring and again in September as they like the cooler temperatures. Kale can tolerate light frosts and that means you can enjoy it into the fall. An added bonus is the ability to steam and freeze it for soups in the winter.
Our tomato plants actually come from the seeds that were purchased back in the winter. I start them in mid-April on window shelves and by Memorial Day weekend I have “hardened off” the plants and they are ready to go into the ground. In case you aren’t familiar with the “hardening off” process it means gradual exposure to sun and wind before putting the plants in the ground. Growing veggies from seed is an inexpensive way to garden. Plus, it’s fun to a watch a seed that is as small as a freckle grow into food you can eat.
Gardening offers something for everyone. Even if you just have a pot of flowers on your front steps it will give your house a “pop of color.” Plus, it will be enjoyed by passersby. If you have a lot of open space in which to garden and a lot of ambition your options are pretty much limitless.
The gardening season is short in Vermont. Now that it’s here have some fun choosing seeds and plants and enjoy the rewards they will bring you.