Since nursery bedding plant benches and seed displays have been stripped bare of vegetable product, it seems like a whole lot of folks are trying their hand at vegetable gardening, maybe for the first time in ages. After a warm weekend of digging and planting, it feels so satisfying to get a food garden started. But, what’s next? You might be surprised to find out if this is the first time around starting a food garden. Here is what to expect:
Wait: Yep, if you just planted vegetables from seed expect a good eight- to 12-week time until harvest. Vegetable starts take six to eight weeks at the least. It all depends on the weather. If things turn cold and rainy, as sometimes April weather is apt to do, the wait might be longer. Be patient.
If you are planning to grow pumpkins, squash, peppers, tomatoes and other warm season vegetables, now is not the time to plant outdoors. Wait until mid-April or May to get them started, unless you are blessed with greenhouse or cold frames.
Weeds will come: Before you know it the weeds will sprout and take over if you are not vigilant. It is well known to experienced gardeners that weeds grow far faster and more robust than the crop intentionally planted. So, consider mulching once seedlings are up and running. Cardboard and newspaper combined with rice straw will help keep weeds at bay.
Others want to eat your garden: Certain pests will arrive in force and eat up freshly sprouted seedlings. Slugs, snails, mice and birds love seedlings and transplants. If you have used organic fertilizer that contains blood meal the raccoons will dig up the soil and try to eat it.
Covering seed beds with row cover will keep most pests out. Organic slug bait will deter slugs and snails. Avoid using blood meal fertilizers if raccoons are frequent visitors.
Choose wisely: The best vegetables to plant in the garden now are the ones that are offered as transplants at your local nursery. If you are growing from seed, sow these varieties now. Spinach, leafy greens, kale, Asian greens and the like grow best in cool spring weather. If you plant Asian greens like mizuna, bok choy, tatsoi, your harvest will be within three weeks if you start from transplants. Seeds of these plants also germinate quickly.
Terry Kramer is the site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.