Hannah Scribbles

3 Galactic Tips for Would-be Gardeners

In The Great Outdoors on March 20, 2014 at 11:49 am

Spring is in the air, and for me that means two things:  nosebleeds and gardening.  I enjoy balancing my unsustainable eating habits with food grown closer to home, so March 20 means it’s time to log out of Netflix and get to work on my garden. That Star Trek marathon can wait!

I have the benefit of many years’ apprenticeship to my father’s vegetable garden.  Over the years, I learned a few tips on getting the garden going once springtime rolls around.  Let me share them with you!

Find your place in the star system!

The USDA divides the United States into different hardiness zones. Based on lowest regional temperature, hardiness zones are a useful guideline for when to plant – and what will thrive (if you’re in northern Maine, I’m just sorry for you).

hardiness zone,

For example, I live in Zone 6b with an average winter minimum temperature of -5 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ll use this as an indicator of what vegetables to plant in my garden as well as when to begin seeding.

Hardiness zones increase as you move toward the equator. Someone living in Montgomery, Ala. would find themselves in Zone 8a (10-15 degrees Fahrenheit). That gardener would also have a longer growing season, making it possible to begin planting earlier.

Terra-form that garden bed!

If you’re making a new garden, you’ll need to define your garden perimeter and remove the sod. Till the ground as deep as you can to loosen the soil. If the garden is in a region with low-moderate clay content, consider spreading a few shovels of coarse sand and organic material across the garden bed and tilling it back into the soil. Using sand alone might hurt rather than help.

why till a garden, when to till the garden, how to till the garden

Spring prepping is easier when you’ve worn the garden in. Till the soil to loosen it. Add some “organic material” – manure or compost – and mix it in. This aerates the soil, builds it up and helps reduce erosion. You can buy manure from the store or pay a midnight visit to the local alpaca farm, but don’t start planting immediately after you fertilize.

Patience, young padawan. Let the fertilizer do its job. Only then will the microbial activity nourish your seedlings without interfering with seed germination.

Don’t eat purple-fleshed melon!

Okay, that last one is a Hunger Games reference and a reminder that sometimes the power of keeping a vegetable garden goes to your head. There’s an allure to making homemade salsa or experimenting with unusual foods.  Celeriac, fiddleheads and hairy cucumbers may peak your curiosity, but don’t plant exotic vegetables on the off chance that you will. Because you probably won’t.

fiddleheads, ferns, edible ferns,

Before buying seeds, take an overarching look at your diet. What do you eat most? Does it make sense to grow it in your garden?

For example: some people enjoy home-grown tomatoes, but I think they taste like the underside of Satan’s cloven hooves. My dad planted tomatoes every year because they grow well in my region, and every year the rising fumes of foul tomato sorcery would overpower the garden. Now that I’m in charge, there shall be nary a tomato in sight. Instead, I’m planting basil, thyme and rosemary.

My staple foods are spinach, avocado, peppers and zucchini. However, avocados are not on the list of best plants for Zone 6; avocado trees are subtropical plants that faint at first sign of frost. I’ll plant green beans instead because they grow well in my area and can be replanted halfway through summer for a longer growing season.

 More great gardening content (and embedded sci-fi references) coming soon!

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