By Alisa Murray –
It’s almost here – my favorite time of the year – and there’s so much to do to be prepared for the garden. With some thoughtful planning and soil prep, you too could be well on your way to creating your very own yard to table dinner. Here’s what should be done right now in the garden and going forward for the spring season.
Vegetables that need to be started from seedlings should be put in small containers that can be cared for close to the house until they are strong enough to be moved to what I call their “forever homes.” It’s also time to pick up several varieties of peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squashes and herbs from the local farmer’s markets. Soon after you see the tomatoes for purchase, cucumbers and eggplants will follow.
Specialty varieties for seed starting should be done with great care, only a couple of seeds per container, and fertilized with a seaweed root stimulator. Stagger lettuce seedlings and beets so they stay at various stages of development, and as you are cooking from one, there’s another just behind it for consumption. This insures you will always have what you need for salads. I always plant the usual varieties of tomatoes found in the markets because the Bonnie Bell man knows what works here and takes that confusion out of the equation for you. Buy what you will eat; however, there’s nothing more delightful than growing heirloom purple’s such, as Black Beauties, Blue Cream Berries, Cherokee Purples or the tiger striped Green Zebra. They are all different and create not only a spectacular display to wow your Instagram, but they add something quite unique and lovely to your plate.
In our part of the country, fruit trees are planted after the danger of a cold snap has passed. Prep the soil in the garden for these and directly place where you want these to live and grow long term. Be conscious of the wild life as they also love fruits and will partake.
Citrus can be a little tricky, and I have the grapefruits, lemons and limes now in the orchard but not before spending a full year closer to where I have kept an eye on them. Same thing goes for those dragon fruits, olives and pomegranates. Don’t forget to fertilize everything and keep an eye out for pests. Acting early on can save or kill all of your efforts. I recommend a daily walk through the gardens making notes of who needs what so everyone remains “living a sweet life” in there.
Flowering gardens, or as we call them cutting gardens, are one of the most special because you can literally eat from them, decorate your home with them and they act as a big stage attracting all your best friends to pollinate your hard work in the main garden. During March you should be tucking sun flower seeds into your vegetable beds to help support the plants and give a show of color to your creation. Dahlias, zinnias and marigolds can provide you with bouquets for your table and to share with your friends.
Finally, the herb garden is a mainstay that once established can and will find you throughout the year cooking more amazing dishes than you thought possible. The main players that you will want to get planted now are, as I say, “all of them.” Even if you do not particularly like rosemary, you’ll discover that many of your herbs protect against disease and can be used in herbal medicine for your home apothecaries. That, of course, along with companion planting is a subject for another time!
Keep on planting and may your garden grow!
Learn more about local gardening at Facebook : “Living the Sweet Life Yard 2 Table Gardening Group.”