Start Your Garden With the Right Soil
With all of your planting, the first step is to get your soil right. ‘Right’ soil means that it’s soft and fluffy with plenty of nutrients for your plants. You should remove as much grass as possible, then amend your garden dirt with sand. If you decide to grow organically, add composted mulch and composted manure – both materials are available for free here in Jackson County.
If you are container gardening, you can buy commercially prepared potting soil or you can make your own. This spring we had to make a special trip to West Farms so Martha could get pepper plants for her pot farm. I made her some potting soil with two parts composted tree mulch and one part composted cow manure. I usually mix in some dirt, but we will see how this mixture works without the dirt.
The next step is getting your seeds in the ground or transplanting. You need to know when to plant, how deep, and the spacing of your seeds. We can plant beans through the middle of May. Beans are planted an inch deep with four- to six-inch spacing. I have always planted beans on flat ground. This year I planted them on eight-inch tall terraces. Corn can be planted through the middle of April. It should be planted on 10 to 12-inch tall rows one- to two-inches deep with a six-inch spacing. Carrots should be planted on flat ground with one- to two-inch spacing 1/4-inch deep (then thinned to two- to three-inch spacing). Cucumbers can also be planted through the end of April on hills. Cucumber seeds should be planted one-inch deep with 12-inch spacing.
Pepper plants can be set out through the end of March and tomato plants can be set out through the third week of April. You want to get your plants set out as soon as possible so they will beat the summer heat. If you are running late on tomatoes, I’ve had good luck with Solar Fire plants which are heat resistant and will bear fruit in July.
Just when I got my corn, beans, cucumbers, and carrot seeds planted, and tomato plants set out, I remembered cantaloupe and honeydew. Those seeds will interrupt your ‘couple of weeks off’ and should be planted through the third week of April. I make rows about 10-inches tall and plant seeds one-inch deep with a 12- to 24-inch spacing. Those melons like rich, sandy soil and lots of water. I read that you can start with flat ground, then add nine-inches of well composted manure, then cover that with three-inches of soil. I might try that next year.
Summer squash should be planted the beginning of April through the end of May. You can plant seeda 1-inch deep with a two- to three-foot spacing on raised rows or hills. It’s been a while, so I’m ready for some fried yellow squash! Watermelons and Okra can be planted starting the middle of April. Okra can be planted in flat ground 1/2- to one-inch deep with eight- to 18-inch spacing. Watermelons should be planted on hills or raised rows one-inch deep with a one- to two-foot spacing. General rules: Cucumbers and melons take a lot of space.
Plant on the outside of the garden and let the vines grow on the grass or give them eight-feet to vine. You can use up to two-inches of well composted cow manure per year on your garden, up to four-inches if you are just starting your garden. You can’t use too much mulch until your soil becomes lighter than commercial potting mix. Most seeds should be planted an inch deep, exceptions – corn up to two-inches, carrots seed 1/4-inch deep. And, this time of year there is no such thing as ‘a couple of weeks off!’
Pick something you enjoy eating and get those seeds in the ground. Keep on growing!