Hooray, It’s here! SPRING which heralds the beginning of gardening season. It’s usually a long spring for us which is ideal for early cold-weather vegetable crops. That means lots of lettuce, greens, peas, cole crops -- and also lots of hope for the kind of summer that favors a bumper crop of warm-weather crops for luscious eating and preserving! So, what can you do now to improve your chances for both kinds of crops?
#1 - Planning - a crucial step!! Most importantly, take stock of your soil. Was it amended with compost or cover crops or mulch last fall? What did you grow in that area last year? Do you need a soil test? Twiss Analytical Labs in Poulsbo provides soil testing services - go to this link
. Great soil is the key to growing great plants. The microorganisms are already busy making some new fertilizer for your plants but will there be enough? Compost and cover crops produce an abundance. Not every plant needs the same fertilizer but a good guide is to use an organic all purpose fertilizer IF YOU NEED IT. It is a bit early and a bit too wet to turn over cover crops now so let them go awhile to get more depth to the roots and greens for building soil organic matter. You can apply compost now however.
Planning what you will grow, where to grow it and when to start or put plants/seeds in (yes, even plan for your winter
garden now). Map out your space/s and rotate crop families to foil pests and get the most out of your soils’ fertility. Do this before you order seeds. If you have a copy of Seattle Tilth’s “Maritime Gardening Guide” (and if you don’t, get one through EHBooks
), you can find information on a simple system for crop rotation. Then turn to the February Chapter to see what you can start outside, with or without protection as well as inside. Remember if you are starting seed inside they may need extra heat but for sure lots of good light - not just a sunny window - to grow into sturdy plants. The Organic Gardening web site
has seed starting information and a simple chart for starting seed.
Have fun by growing something this year you have never grown before, but research the growing habits/conditions first and then find the recipes to use them in when ready. Don’t forget to plan on plugging in some flowers for attracting pollinators to your garden. If you planted garlic last fall it is now time to start fertilizing every couple weeks with a high Nitrogen fertilizer such as blood or fish meal.
FYI - our last frost date here is May 15th
- yes, sometimes we get by and sometimes we get creamed - be prepared! There are lots of ways to protect plants, called "season extenders", that can help you get a jump on things so google the subject if you need information on those. This video shows how to make a simple hoop house/cloche
#2 - Order seed you want early so you get what you want. Good sources are Territorial Seed Co
, Johnny's Selected Seeds
, Bountiful Gardens
, Baker Creek Seeds
for a wonderful assortment of heirloom veggies, Turtle Tree Seeds
for biodynamic seeds. There is literally something for everyone! It's especially important to order, or find locally, your potato seed. If you don’t know how to grow potatoes check out this web site
and others as needed to get a handle on it - it’s easy and they are oh, so good. BTW, growing sweet potatoes uses a whole different method but if you are experienced you might want to try them.
#3 If you want to get in some small fruits and berries and fruit trees, now is the time to plant them. Fruits and berries will give you many years of wonderful production if you put them in correctly, so spend time on the front end finding out what you need to do. Many have specific needs for pH and pollination so it helps to know what your soil pH is and pollinators are before you invest. Raintree Nursery
has a full day of classes March 19th at their nursery in Morton, WA as well as several other classes about specific topics. Plan a weekend away down to Mt Rainier area and register for the classes. The Peninsula Fruit Tree Club's Spring Grafting Show is March 26th at the Silverdale Community Center where they will have fruit trees and scion wood in addition to lots of fruit tree information.
The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is Feb 23-27th - check out things you want to grow in their Marketplace.
Canning Classes February 12/22nd - and the Westsound Small Farms Expo - March 5th, 8-5pm; See the WSU Website
for registration info for both programs.
Spend your time now planning, ordering, doing some early seeding (and, of course, weeding) and you'll reap the benefits all summer long!