Protect your Plants

It is going to be COLD tonight – below freezing cold.  We all need to protect our plants – water the roots (not the leaves) well and then cover with a protective tarp, plastic sheet, frost cover, etc.  I am not worried about my pansies.  The most that will happen is that a few flowers may fall off – but more buds will follow.  I am mostly worried about my newly planted cold crops, especially the tiny ones that sprouted from seed.  I will definitely cover them.

I think I will bring my lettuce hanging baskets inside – I will trim them at the same time and enjoy a fresh salad.  🙂

Weeds Weeds Weeds

With all of the unseasonably warm weather that we have been having, it seems as though I woke up one morning and my gardens were taken over by weeds.  They usually start to appear at this time anyway – in a smaller, easy to control manner –  but whoa the temperatures have made them monsterous and plentiful.  Of course I am now ready to mulch, and the temperatures are getting cool so I can’t spray the weeds until we get a nice sunny warm day again.  Well, my solution is to get out the ol’ metal rake, hand rake, and weed culler.  I will just have to remove them by hand for now…a word of caution, however; perennial weeds will usually come back.  (Weeds that sprout from weed-seeds can be eliminated by spreading corn gluten mixtures in the garden).  Once my beds are cleaned up, it is mulch time!!

During warm weather, I use sprays to get rid of my weeds.  Each year there is a new product added to the mix that targets specific problems.  Ortho Weed B Gone targets the weeds with broad leaves.  Grass B Gone gets rid of weeds that have a grass-like appearance and (obviously) grass itself.  The great thing about Grass B Gone is that it will not harm the plants that you already have planted.  And of course there is the spray to combat that dreaded crabgrass.

Weed mats are incredibly effective If you want great protection and are just starting a new bed, it is a piece of cake to lay.  If you want to use the mats but have established plants, you will have to cut the mat to fit around your plantings.

Well, at least we just had a bit of rain, making the soil softer and the weeds easier to rake out and remove.

Planting Cool Season Crops

I decided to try something this year that I have always thought about in the past…planting some cool season crops.  Cool season crops are just that – vegetables that prefer the cool days of spring, (and fall for that matter), and are adapted to withstand frost.  I must mention though that small, newly planted selections can still use protection from hard frosts.

Because my garden is smaller, I only chose a few selections to try,(although I will provide a list of available veggies to choose from).  I also decided to try two methods.  I planted a few seeds and plants into containers and a few directly into my garden bed.

Containers ready to go

I decided to try cauliflower, broccoli, baby carrots, radishes, and lettuces. (I plan to add spinach as soon as it is available).  For my cauliflower, broccoli, and some of the lettuce I used starter plants and my radishes, carrots, and other lettuces were planted by seed.

I planted my containers first – making sure that they were at least 12″ in-depth.  The broccoli and cauliflower plants are spindly at the bottom so I had to remove the bottom two leaves and plant them deeply into the soil.  The carrot and radish seeds were sown in a circle with two seeds in the middle, (10 plants per container).

Two leaves removed - ready to plant

In my garden, I just planted straight rows, following the spacing guidelines for the plants, and planting depth guidelines for the seeds.  In both my containers and my bed, I made sure to mark the vegetables with identification tags.

I am experimenting with lettuce hanging baskets this year…just what it sounds like.  I bought two 4.5″ pots of lettuce mixtures and planted them into empty hanging basket containers…I will keep you posted as to my success.

So, my early garden is planted, (although my little “cool season corner” does not look like much at this point), and now I will monitor it and report on the success of my endeavors!

Cool Season Veggies:

  • Artichoke
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • chard
  • garlic
  • kohlrabi
  • lettuce
  • collard & mustard greens
  • onions
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • radish
  • spinach
  • turnips

Early Spring Vegetable Gardening

Well, I can finally check off “Clean up Veggie Garden” from my to-do list.  After the unbelievable temperatures the past two days, I was committed to get my vegetable & herb garden into shape.

A few things about my veggie garden…first and foremost…it is not pretty, therefore, it is in a hidden spot in my yard.  It is only about 6 to 8 feet wide and about 16 or so feet long.  I have a section for actual planting into the ground and ample space to plant into containers.  My garden qualifies for what is referred to as “Small Plot Vegetable Gardening”.

If you are contemplating a veggie/herb garden, it MUST be in a site that receives at least 6 hours of sun each day.  Shady spots only produce weak plants that just don’t produce.

Last year I put down a weed barrier – which quite frankly was as simple as cut-open trash bags secured into the bed with clips and some mulch on top to hold it down.  To get to the soil and to add composted manure, I had to remove the bags.  I worked the manure into the top 6 to 8 inches of the soil and then raked out the surface weeds and root clumps with my garden rake.

My garden is surrounded by fencing that consists only of metal green wire fencing secured to metal garden stakes.  (Living in Wilmington, DE, I do not have to battle deer – just bunnies and my dogs who like to carouse and trample everything that is important to my gardening ventures.)  This year I adjusted the fencing to allow space to walk around the perimeter of the garden.  Last year I did not even think about that.  Once the plants matured, it was a total pain trying to make my way around the garden to harvest and to water.  A suggestion to keep in mind so that you don’t have to find out the hard way – like I did.

If you are ready to clean up your garden…and perhaps give cool-crop vegetable gardening a try (like me…see my next post), now is a great time.  Remember, sunny site, add manure, and work the soil down to about 6 to 8 inches in depth.  Do not do this right after it has rained though.  Working with wet soil tends to make it hard and clumpy  – requiring the same tilling process all over again when it dries…plus, walking on wet soil  creates areas of compaction which is too dense for planting.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch

As I look out at my gardens and trees, I think about the instant gratification of mulching…the fresh, rich color and well defined edges, not to mention all of the benefits of mulching:

  • Prevents weed growth
  • Conserves moisture in the soil
  • Cools the soil surface and stabilizes soil temperature in the heat of summer
  • Reduces soil erosion on slopes
  • Adds organic matter to the soil as the older mulch decomposes

As tempted as I am to start mulching-away, it is just not the right time yet.  The best time to mulch is in late spring, after the soil has had time to warm.  Mulching in March will only insulate the cold soil and shield it from the sun and warmth.  This will delay plant growth, both established and newly planted.

For now, I will prepare for mulching by tackling those pesky weeds that are already popping up in my beds.