“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” -Audrey Hepburn
In spite of all the stay-at-home orders, cancelled events, and closed businesses, the spring season blooms on. As I have seen in many posts and newsletter these days, “Gardening is not cancelled.” In fact, as people have more time to spend at home and many garden centers remain open on a curbside pick-up or delivery basis, gardening has become a more popular pastime than ever. Even more than a pastime, people are turning to the act of growing their own food to help support their families during this time.
I am grateful now more than ever for the garden box we built and the beautiful backyard space we have to enjoy and utilize. All of the time spent at home has opened up more opportunities to spend time in that space and appreciate it.
Even before the shelter-in-place orders, we were planning to plant a vegetable garden, however, it became more urgent once businesses and offices began shutting down. In fact we got to our local garden center to buy seeds one day before they began a temporary closure to reevaluate their retail strategy. It was a relief that we got our seeds and some seedlings from them before their indefinite closure.
We picked up a beefsteak tomato seedling and planted it in the garden bed probably a little earlier than advisable. For variety we picked up a few seed packets of sungold and red cherry tomatoes and San Marzano tomatoes which are good for turning into sauce. We also picked up a few herb seedlings- broadleaf sage and oregano and marigolds. Another exciting find was a variety of jalapeno seedlings called ‘Jedi’.
We started a few other seeds indoors including ‘Black Beauty’ zucchini, Serrano peppers, Italian basil, ‘Rainbow’ chard, and ‘Nickel Filet’ green beans. In addition to the purchased seeds we also planted a ‘Delicata’ squash seed that we saved from our kitchen. The containers we used to start the seedlings were recycled containers from other plants we had purchased in the past. We also had an organic potting soil mix from past planting projects, so we used that as our seeding medium. Labeling your seedlings helps to keep track of what you planted and where. The date is also useful so that you know about how old your seedlings are.
To ensure the seedlings would get adequate light and attention, we set them up under an LED light on top of a bookcase in our home office. We bought a simple spray bottle that we could keep next to the seedlings to give them a nice, gentle dousing of water in the mornings and evenings. Some of them germinated within days, and others didn’t show any signs of sprouting until a week or two after planting them.
This past weekend we decided to transplant the tomato, zucchini, and green bean seedlings outside. We also scored a free cucumber seedling on a walk around our neighborhood, so we decided to plant that, too. Our seedlings were about three weeks old when we transplanted them. Some of the indicators that the seedlings were ready to be transplanted were their size and the number of leaf sets they had. The green beans were the most precocious of the bunch and were about 5-6 inches tall with a full set of adult leaves. The zucchini was 3-4 inches tall, and it had set its adult leaves as well. The tomatoes were also about 3-4 inches tall. The tomatoes were on the smaller side, but this is partly because we seeded two seeds per container to increase the chances of success.
The tomatoes will take up their own half of the garden bed, and even that might be somewhat tight spacing. The zucchini and cucumber plants will also get quite big. We were worried the green beans would be crowded out in the garden box, so we transplanted them into a separate container. We also put some of the jalapenos into pots instead of the large garden box for the same reason. Additionally, our plan for the chard is to transplant them into a container we currently have potatoes growing in. So when the potatoes come out, the chard will go in.
Daily waterings are important when plants are young because their root systems have not yet developed. Once plants have a more developed root system, they can typically go longer between waterings because they can reach further down and around for available water, nutrients, etc.
To give the plants a little boost, I’ve also fertilized them with a dose of kelp and fish emulsion. The fertilizer I have been using has a 2-2-2 nitrogen-potassium-phosphorus (NPK) ratio, or in other words, it has equal parts nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. This is a great, balanced blend. Fish emulsion by itself is usually very high in nitrogen but not the other two (P & K), however, plants need all three to be strong and healthy. Nitrogen is great to apply when plants are in their vegetative growth stage (i.e. getting taller, putting on new leaves), but it is best to cut back on the nitrogen once plants enter the fruiting stage.
That’s all for now! I’ll most likely post again after we do the next round of planting. Hope everyone is staying safe and well, and I hope that you are getting the chance to garden.