Gardening for Beginners

Yes, gardening may seem intimidating, but it is easier than Mac and Cheese

It may be easiest to go to your nearest gardening store and explain to an employee what you would like to do.  What would you like to grow?  Tomatoes? Zucchini? Basil?  This would be the easiest and build a relationship with a local gardener.

But, sometimes if you are willing to try, that is the best thing of all.  I usually purchase a few cold weather plants like kale, Swiss chard, spinach, buttercrunch, and sugar snap peas already started in 4 packs (4 baby plants in one package).  They usually retail for around $2.00 tops.  The Swiss chard and kale can be placed where it will receive shade in the warmer months, which usually can extend the growing season well into fall.

I use row covers, which can be bought at your local garden center or Home Depot.  I will plant these guys in an area that does not need to be messed with until warmer months, such as June. The row covers can help your baby plants down to around 30º F degrees.

early vegetable planting

Cold Weather Row Cover Beds

I use PVC 1/2″ pipe from previous years, pushed into the ground to form a canopy over the plants.  The open ends of the cover should face north and south.  This helps with air flow.  I then place the cover over and secure with metal “U” stakes or rocks.  Some rain will get in but usually not enough to keep the plant growing healthy.  So, check for water needs every day because they could dry out if too warm.

The row cover can stay on till June if need be, as long as the row cover is not causing growth restriction to the plants.  Sugar Snap peas will need to have 3′ stakes placed when starting to grow tendrils.   When the plants have started showing some healthy growth, around 2 weeks after planting, start with a fertilizer.  One that I use frequently is fish emulsion mixed with water.  I mix this in an old milk jug and keep it out by the garden.  Fertilizing twice a week should work fine.  If “more natural” is not a concern, then a product like Miracle Grow can be added to water and watered in about once a week.  Make sure it says on the package for vegetables.  If there is doubt, a salesperson at Home Depot or your local garden center can point you in the right direction.

Cold Weather Spinach

Spinach

So, this lovely dance goes on until ready for harvest.  With the kale, spinach and Swiss chard, it can be harvested when the plants have numerous leaves taking no more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.  If any of the plants develop flowers, they will produce bitter leaves.  The sugar snap peas should be a little plump before harvest but not show large peas inside.

cold weather beans

Snap Peas