If you are new to the garden scene, you may not know exactly what to plant. Or how to go about planting what you want. you may not have the tools to plant or know when to plant. Let us answer a few of these questions, in the hope that a productive garden is a result.
Also, keep in mind that what might work for your neighbor may not work for you and that what is expressed here is by no means an absolute. You will need to do your homework to see which method suits you the best.
Under the topic of planting, we will discuss, what you will need, types of seeds, growing conditions, when to plant, How to plant and What to plant (primarily companion planting).
What do you need?
What do you need, is a simple enough statement. At the very basic implication, it refers to seeds, plants, cuttings. And then your tools: Shovel, Hoe, Rake, and a knife or scissors.
Let us start with seeds:
What ever you do, in these trying times, Do Not, I repeat, do not buy hybrid seed. As a matter of fact stay as far away from hybrid seeds, plants, and cuttings as possible. Even if your interest is not seeding production. The sequence of genes in a hybrid plant are being copy written and huge seed companies are now starting to sue farmers where the genes happen to pop up in the field. So to play it safe, for health and finance stay away from hybrids and GMO (Genetically modified organisms).
You will want to plant seeds that are preferable for last year’s production. If not last year then the year before that. However take note that the older the seed, the less likely they are to germinate. For the simple fact is that within every seed there is a spark of life, and as time goes by it will eventually die out. But most seeds are good for 3 to 5 years after production.
There maybe the possibility of buying open-pollinated or heirloom plants at your local nursery, hardware, or feed store. If this is possible you may be able to skip the germination process. Which could save time and energy? But make sure you pick plants that are Not flowering. Plants that are flowering usually have wasted a lot of energy to do so, and they generally don’t transplant as well as some of their less showy sisters and brothers. Check for diseases, viruses, and fungus. Never bring these home. Plants need to be of good rich color and not tall or lanky. Sturdy stalks, no flowers, no curled leaves, no off coloring, and no bugs. But of course, this may not be an option if no stores are open for business.
Again cuttings can save time and energy. However, they may not be available at the beginning of the season. Again use the same discretion in choosing your cuttings as in choosing your plants. But you may have a harder time seeing if the packing soil they are in has bad bugs, viruses, bacteria or fungus in it.
Shovel, rake, and hoe
These three implements are arguable some of the oldest tools known to man. A larger then average garden may be put in with only these tools. The shovel can be used to turn the soil, dig holes, dig up plants, cut roots below the surface, and incorporate humus, and other soil amenities. The rake is used to gather or spread materials on the ground. The Hoe is used to disturb the soil and break the fine roots of weeds. Plus all three may be used as a weapon of self-defense.
Types of seeds
Seeds come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. The coconut, corn, peas, beans, sesame, flax and pecans are all seeds. They all have one purpose, to reproduce plants of their kind. Above all, when planting a garden that you wish to save seed from year after year, buy only heirloom or open-pollinated varieties. Do not buy hybrids, most seeds at a feed store or from a seed catalog are hybrids. Hybrid seeds will germinate and produce a fine healthy plant, for one growing cycle. Many of these plants have been bred to be exceptional in one area or another. That area could be disease resistant or very productive, enhanced color or aroma. However, they were also bred so that the traits they expressed would not breed through and be seen in the next generation. When you save seed from a hybrid and plant it you are running a high risk of getting plants to look nothing like their parents, they probably will not be as productive, or as colorful, they may even be stunted in their growth. Buy seeds that can be planted and saved year after year after year.
For many plants in your garden, frost is a death sentence. But thankfully this is not true foe many members in the lettuce, cabbage, and broccoli family. These plants may take a slight frost. This fact extends our growing season. And can be planted as early as February and March, depending on where you are. The rest of most garden vegetables will be planted late April through early June. Again this depends on the vegetable and where you live. You should always follow the directions on the seed packages. If you plan on having a huge garden you may want to consider a small green house or several cold frames. These would allow you to start many plants earlier than usual and can be used to harden off seedlings. There are many good ideas and designs for green houses and cold frames in garden books and magazines. You might be able to get second-hand glass (with chips and cracks in it) from your local glass shop. You can usually find a way to use these. Remember adequate moisture, sunlight and food are the requirements of every plant.
When to plant
I prefer to plant using the signs of the moon. If you don’t fine. I have proven this method to myself and I am quite happy with it. You may purchase a calendar with signs on it or get and almanac.
How to plant
Basically planting boils down to seeds coming into contact with the necessary light “or lack of”, water and warmth. Some seeds prefer to have their seed coat stratified (scratched, Broken, bruised) to allow the inside of the seed to emerge. Many gardeners prefer to place their seeds either in a bucket of water overnight or on a damp paper towel (if the seed is small enough). Some seeds may need longer than overnight (24-48 hrs). This process speeds up germination. After the seeds have soaked up some water they may be planted in seedling trays or directly into the garden. Make sure that you read the directions on the seed packages. Some plants do not like to be transplanted and need to be planted directly in the garden.
What to plant
This question can be answered with 2 questions. What do you like to eat? And what do you think you will need?
I, myself believe that a good balanced will kick most diseases to the curb. I also like a lot of flavor in my food. So in my garden, there are a lot of herbs. Not only do they add flavor to foods, but also they can be used to keep a person healthy. You may want to look at plants that you can use for trade. Such as tobacco or stevia. Whichever routes you take you need to do your homework.
Companion planting has been used for centuries to aid one or all the plants grow together. Such combinations are Soybeans and corn in neighboring rows. Tomatoes and cabbages or tomatoes and asparagus. These aids each other, the beans fix nitrogen for the corn. The tomatoes drive of flies from the cabbages and asparagus.
If you wish to plant a little closer try planting radishes and onions with lettuce or tomatoes. Cabbage and garlic or spinach and cucumbers work as well.
This is by no means a complete list, feel free to experiment with combinations. But remember you don’t want anything that will directly compete with each other. It might be possible to harvest one before its companion really starts to grow.
Another aspect of companion planting is the idea of using plants to attract pollinators for their companions. Most plants used here are flowers. A few are Dill, Mustard, Buckwheat and most wildflowers.
You may use plants to not only attract pollinators but also to drive away or kill harmful insects. What is so good about this, is that herbs fill the bill.
Several flowers will work as well. Tansy, pennyroyal, hyssop, catnip, African and French marigolds all work to repel insects. In fact, the pyrethrum flower works so well that it was made into a commercial spray years ago.
Please be careful! Research has shown that some of these plants have been known to actually attract the cabbageworm moth. However, a vegetable garden with flowers and herbs scattered throughout is always a lovely sight and should be a healthy garden that will produce healthy and nutritious food for the gardener.