A vegetable garden can be safely started in the spring when the last snow has melted and the soil has begun to dry out, and in the early fall as long as there is enough time to harvest before freezing temperatures hit. There are three ways to start a vegetable garden: from seeds that you “start” or bring to seedling indoors; from seeds planted directly in the garden plot; or from seedlings purchased from a greenhouse or nursery. For beginning gardeners, seedlings are an easier choice. If possible, position your vegetable garden within easy reach of the house so you can check frequently for pests, weeds and other needs as the plants mature.
Choosing Vegetables To Grow
Consult a local expert to find out which varieties grow in your area—and in which season (keep in mind that there are “winter” and “spring” vegetables types). Buy seedlings from a reputable local dealer or seeds from a source that knows your region well. Once you have the right seeds or seedlings in hand, everything is possible!
Soil Preparation: Composts and Fertilizers
Break up the soil and turn carefully with a till or fork, then add several inches of rich organic compost from GRO-WELL.
After the garden is prepared, mix an organic GRO-WELL fertilizer into the soil as you set in the plants. Apply again when the plants are half-grown. Ask your GRO-WELL retailer for help in finding just the right products.
Vegetable seeds and seedlings need plenty of water while they’re developing and while the edible part of the plant is growing. Be sure the soil can drain or else the roots will begin to rot. Water in the morning or evening so the sun won’t dry up the moisture before it reaches plant roots.
The Importance of Organics
A key advantage of growing your own vegetables is that you can be sure that the food your family eats is chemical-free. From compost to fertilizers to deterrents for weeds and pests, GRO-WELL offers everything you’ll need to go organic.
Herbs are relatively easy to grow. Most are not vulnerable to insects, nor do they require special nutrients. Choose from aromatic, cooking, medicinal and ornamental varieties. There are annuals (such as anise, basil, chervil, coriander and dill); perennials that come up every year (chives, fennel, marjoram, mint, tarragon, thyme); and biennials (caraway, parsley) that grow for two years, but usually only flower in the second year. Biennials may be difficult for beginning gardeners. If you decide to plant biennials, you may want to consider replanting them every year so you will not have to keep track of growing cycles.
An herb garden can be planted in a relatively small space. Many gardeners position them close to the kitchen so they will have fast access. To promote easy maintenance, it’s a good idea to segregate annuals, biennials and perennials in separate sections of your herb garden plot. For most families, a 12- to 18-inch section will provide sufficient growing area for each herb variety.
Starting Your Herb Garden
You can begin from seeds or seedlings. Seeds can be started indoors (especially helpful in a very cold climate) or in an outdoor garden patch. Start them in late winter in a shallow container to transplant outdoors in the spring. Soil should be well drained and light (not dense). Do not plant seeds very deep—they should lie close to the surface of the soil (for large seeds, 1/8th inch of depth is sufficient; for smaller seeds, even less). Some herbs, especially anise, coriander, dill and fennel, should be started in the garden rather than indoors. Read the seed packet instructions for information about how to thin the seedlings so they will not grow too close together.
The Vital Importance of Drainage
Herbs will not grow in wet soil. Check your plot for drainage. If the soil holds water, dig out the top foot-and-a-half of soil. Set in three inches of crushed stone or a similar drainage aid. Lighten the texture of the soil you removed by tossing it with a GRO-WELL compost or sphagnum peat moss and some sand. Shovel it in on top of the crushed stone. The level should be a little higher than before so that the lighter soil can settle into position.
To Fertilize or Not
Most herbs do not require fertilizer. In fact, heavily fertilized soil can be counter-productive. Examples of herbs that do require a little fertilizer are chervil, fennel, lovage and summer savory. Tips below:
- Very fine seeds will sow better if you mix them with sand.
- After planting fine seeds, try covering the area with wet burlap or heavy paper until they begin to sprout.
- While herbs are germinating, water with a fine spray to avoid disturbing the thin top layer of soil.
- A pesticide is rarely needed, but if required, use an organic pesticide.