Expand your budding gardening skills with tips from The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Vegetables – The Seattle Times | Directory Mayhem

Editor’s note: These are edited excerpts from Lorene Edwards Forkner’s new book, The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Vegetables, published by Timber Press, Portland. Used with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

THIS BOOK WILL GUIDE you through each month of the year and build your gardening know-how. You’ll find tips and techniques, as well as suggestions on what to grow and how. No matter what you’re looking to harvest—a windowsill harvest of microgreens in winter, fresh salads spring through fall, a bumper crop of tomatoes, or some zesty herbs to liven up your dinner—this is your guide to navigating the delicious possibilities that At your disposal are home breeders.

Dream big but start small
Dream of a never-ending supply of strawberries for shortcake, homemade cucumbers and fragrant basil. Imagine piles of potatoes, onions and glowing moons of winter squash that have been stored for the winter. Hell, imagine this year’s vintage of the house wine aging in the cellar – after all, we’re dreaming. Then wake up and be realistic about your resources. How much time and space can you really devote to growing food? Remember: you have a life outside of the vegetable garden.

Do yourself a favour: only plan and plant what you can eat. On any given day, would you buy five heads of lettuce, two dozen tomatoes, and three bushels of kale? Probably not. Although I indulge in abundance, I do not seek abundance. I know all too well that overly ambitious planting leads to physical exhaustion and a landscape that looks more like a busy farm than an urban lot. And not keeping up with an overgrown or thirsty garden is discouraging and wasteful. Planning and planting for a modest but consistent harvest takes the pressure off of tending and harvesting.

My recommendation: resist the urge to plant everything. Focus on the plants you can accommodate and that thrive in your growing region, and let the hardworking local farms and artisans do the heavy lifting.

Choose what to grow
Grow what you love to eat. It sounds so easy doesn’t it? Not a fan of cabbage? Don’t bother. Or maybe you have an exceptional fondness for broad beans, like me; I always plant this easy to grow absolutely delicious legume. What’s your favorite vegetable? go there

The other simple rule is to grow food in amounts that suit the needs of your household. To me, an ideal planting would yield plenty for the table and sharing with friends and family, along with enough extra for the occasional helping of berry jam, zesty tomato sauce, or herb pesto to see me through the humid, cool months to the warmth of next summer . Once you understand the difference between cool and warm season harvests, you’re on your way to plotting and planning to get the most out of the overall growing season you’re gardening in.

March: Go outside
Depending on where you are, March can be a warm touch of spring and pale sunshine, or wintry and mired in mud; often it is both. Plants and gardeners alike rejoice in this luxurious season of adequate moisture. Bulbs bloom, seeds sprout and plants grow at a remarkable rate as the days lengthen. But even in the midst of this dewy, dripping, rainy – some would say soggy – season, seasoned gardeners know how to plan for the coming dry season. In this chapter I will show you how to control the growing season in your garden.

to do in March:
To plan
● Read notes from last year’s garden journal.
● Keep track of weather conditions and plantings in this year’s Garden Journal.

Prepare and maintain
● Test the soil composition in different parts of the garden.
● Compost and distribute in the garden.
● Dig and prepare beds for planting where the soil is workable; Ingest rapidly degradable additives such as alfalfa meal, blood meal, fish meal and seaweed.
● Replace mulch where necessary.
● Keep up with early weeding and patrol for pests.
● Set up fences as necessary to control the animals.
● Monitor and care for indoor seedlings.
● Fertilize overwintered garlic and onions.

Sow and plant
● Indoors: Start with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and squash (later in the month in the Pacific Northwest).
● In the garden: plant potatoes and soft-necked garlic. Arugula, Asian leafy greens, broccoli, broad beans, lettuce and green lettuces, peas, radishes and spinach (depending on conditions).
● Lay out onion sets and homegrown or nursery plantings of cool season crops.
● Sow covered outdoors: beets, carrots, chard, kale, parsley.

Principles of gardening in a small space
By growing a variety of crops throughout the growing season, you can leverage a garden’s tiny footprint for larger production. Not only does this provide a delicious choice of food, but it is also a way to hedge against disappointment. Did birds get the berries, snails eat the lettuce and tomato rot before harvest? Oh well; Here comes more lettuce, lots of kale and lots of pumpkins. Make a note in your gardening journal to protect next year’s harvest by netting the blueberries before they are ripe.

Even gardeners with ample grow space can save work by adopting the principles of small space gardening. It just makes sense to maximize what you can produce in the smallest space – more food, less work.

replanting
To get the most out of your garden, it’s important to keep your beds planted at all times; This is called successor planting. As soon as a plant is ready to be harvested — or if it’s fading (beginning to bloom and germinate) or slowing production — pull it out. Tired plants and the remains of early sowings can be thrown onto the compost heap. Work some finished compost and a light application of organic fertilizer into the soil and replant immediately.

One approach to succession planting is to repeatedly sow a single short-term crop (like radishes, lettuce, or spring onions) in the same bed throughout the season. For example, to produce a steady crop of cut-and-come-back lettuce, sow thick blocks of mixed lettuce every 7 to 10 days, starting at 1 square foot, and harvest each block for two to three cuttings before planting the remove spent plants. Freshen up the soil and replant. This is a much more efficient way to produce a constant supply of fresh greens than planting a long row of lettuce and harvesting everything at once.

Another method is to plant a rotation of cool and warm season crops in the same bed throughout the growing season; This approach works best when the growing season is long, with an extended cool spring. If you garden tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other heat-loving plants too early (before soil temperatures have warmed enough to support active growth), you risk permanently damaging the crop. Instead, sow cool-season crops (such as radishes, peas, or spinach) in the same spot where you will later start summer crops. Your jittery tomato starts will thank you, and you’ll get an early spring bonus for cool-season harvests.

catch crops
Planting a fast-maturing crop between rows or interspersed with plantings that take longer to grow is another variation of succession planting called cover cropping. I often plant summer lettuce in and around my tomato starts. The lettuce plants quickly grow to harvest size before the tomatoes fill the space. Later in the summer, I squeeze another crop into the same garden footprint by sowing kale at the base of my now-mature tomato plants. The young seedlings germinate and establish themselves protected from intense summer conditions; After harvesting the last tomato, I cut the plants down to the ground and let the now well-established kale plants thrive and produce in the cool, damp fall weather.

Planning back-to-back plantings and juggling cover crops takes serious planning. But managing your garden’s space-time continuum is an essential aspect of maximizing the fresh food yield from a small garden.

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