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Monday, February 15, 2010

Ready for Spring Gardening?

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready for the dustings of snow and cold weather to head out and for spring to move on in! I'm thinking about our spring garden plans for the year and what I'd like to accomplish - how about you all?

I'm going to repost and article I did from last spring about getting ready for spring gardening, just because it has so many good links in it that might come in handy. Feel free to share what your gardening plans are for the year - you might give the rest of us a good idea or two!

It could take volumes of text to go into great detail about gardening how-to, especially for those of you out there who might be doing your very first garden this year. So, I'm going to provide some links instead for great gardening resources that are already out there for you to use.

Getting the "perfect" garden spot going can take years of working the soil to get it nutrient-rich for your area of the state or country. But there are things you can do even if this is your first attempt at gardening that will make the job easier and still allow you to see some yield from your efforts.

You don't have to own a tiller, a lot of land or tons of gardening implements to get started. We've done traditional garden plots, square foot gardening, raised bed gardening, container gardening and had good yields and bad in all of them. Some of it is beyond our control - like drought, but usually just a little hard work and TLC will yield a nice little bounty for you and/or your family.

Know your climate zone: Tennessee hardiness zones range from 6a to 7b. Knowing your hardiness zone will help you determine which plants will grow in your area during what times of the year. Here's the USDA Hardiness Zone Map for TN - this one is interactive for your location using Google Maps.

Know your frost-free date: The frost-free date for my area of West TN is April 8th-15th. That is the date that it is considered "safe" to plant outdoors without having to fear a frost will come in and kill tender young plants. The past few years, we've had a hard frost / freeze around April 13th - so it pays to know this information. Here's a handy little chart from Victory Seed Company for the First and Last Freeze Dates for TN.

Know what you'll eat: It really doesn't do much good to plant a whole slew of squash or zucchini if no one in your family will eat them. So take some time first to decide what you want to eat and how you want to use it. Are you going to freeze any of your harvest? Are you going to home can any of your harvest? Are you going to dehydrate any of your harvest? Do you want to have enough to eat fresh plus plenty to put away for the winter? Do you want to grow extra to trade for other fruits or veggies you don't have the ability to plant? Do you want to grow extra for extended family members? Spend a little time thinking this through so you can take the next step and determine how much you need to plant based on how much you'd like to yield.

Some links relevant to the above:
If you want to home can, freeze or dehydrate and never have - I recommend this book as a complete guide to get you started. It covers everything you need to know about canning, freezing, dehydrating and includes fabulous recipes. I use this every year and have never had a recipe fail. Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving.

Know how much you need to plant: Once you know what you want to plant and what you want to do with your harvest, you can determine how many seeds / starter plants you'll need to reach your yield. Much will depend on your gardening method. You can get more plants in a smaller area if you use the square foot gardening method; you'll need a lot more room if you are using traditional row gardening, so take all of that into consideration. Here are some handy calculators:

Backwoods Home - you can go to the link, type in "gardening" in the search box and read many articles about gardening basics.

How to Plan a Farm and Garden to Feed a Family

About.com: How Much To Plant

Virginia Cooperative Extension - has a handy chart, but you'll need to use the TN planting dates if you are in TN instead of the ones on that website.

What kind of seeds? Most people trying to become more self-sufficient and grow a substantial garden to supplement or completely provide for their family's food needs will work hard to use only heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds gathered from this year's harvest can be saved and used to plant next year's harvest. With hybrid seeds (like most you buy from any "local" stores or nurseries) the seeds from your harvest cannot be saved and used for future planting, requiring that you constantly buy new seeds. Yes, heirloom seeds might be a bit more expensive on the front-end, but once you learn the easy art of seed-saving, you'll always have the seeds you need right at hand! Here are some links - do your research and make your own decision on the company you think best deserves your business and is most dependable:

Bountiful Gardens - we've purchased lots of seeds from this site and they've always been dependable.

Marianna's Heirloom Seeds - right here in TN

New Hope Seed Company - another right here in TN


Heirloom Seeds

Seeds of Change


Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Amishland Heirloom Seeds

Keeping it going: Once you get everything planted, you'll need to take steps to make sure your plants thrive. Watering guidelines, using mulch, natural fertilizer, weeding, bug control, composting and knowing how to start companion and rotational gardening will help you get the most from your vegetable garden for your entire growing season and those to come. More links:

National Plant Board List of Noxious Weeds

Guide to Selecting A Garden Mulch

Environmentally Responsible Gardening Products

Chemical-free pest control and garden fertilizing - Jerry Baker, Master Gardener

Dave's Garden - gardening tips

Neptune Harvest - all natural organic fertilizer

How To Compost

Compost Master

Conserving Water In The Vegetable Garden

Organic Garden Pest Control

Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

Natural Garden Pest Control

Beneficial Nematodes

Rotational Gardening

Crop Rotation

Companion Planting - Secrets of Organic Gardening

Carrots Love Tomatoes - companion planting book

Companion Planting - So Happy Together

We'll do some tire gardening again this year as well as some conventional and raised be gardening. We've had a cute little pot bellied pig who has been working hard through the fall and winter to till some of our yard for us - my husband calls her our hog-a-tiller! She's created a few 8 ft x 16 ft spaces for us that will be ready for spring - and when the time comes I'll show you what we do with them!

I'd love to hear your comments or share with me other links that gardeners here in TN might find useful!

1 comment:

Peter said...

if you are looking for more information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is a detailed and interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at http://www.plantmaps.com/usda_hardiness_zone_map.php which allow you to locate your USDA zone based on zipcode or city.

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