You can start your garden from seed, or by using transplants. There are benefits to using transplants, as it is far less work and time for the gardener. There are many delicious tried and true varieties available from local growers. However, starting from seed can ultimately be more cost-effective with how many plants you can grow. Growing by seed offers more selection with vast options of varieties that are available from many local and heirloom seed companies. Planting seed can also get you ahead in the growing season. To learn more about growing from seed, check out our Starting From Seed blog post. Seeds can take about 6-8 weeks to grow transplants.
Pay attention to soil temperatures when planting your garden. For example, most greens will be fine with a 50˚F soil temperature, but when planting veggies such as tomatoes, zucchinis, and peppers, you will need a warmer soil temperature for them to survive and thrive. Dig a hole large enough to place your transplant, making sure that the bottom of the hole is relatively packed and firm so the plant doesn’t sink down, but leaving some loose soil where the roots will be placed. After removing the transplant from its pot, gently loosen up the roots at the base, and place it into the planting hole. Transplanting is a great time to sprinkle some organic fertilizer and mycorrhizal fungi down into the planting hole, right where it will reach the roots of the young growing plant to give it the best possible start.
Mycorrhizal Fungi are microscopic soil organisms that are critical for developing expansive root systems, improving nutrient cycling and soil structure, and protecting against a variety of plant stresses including drought and environmental extremes. (Mycorrhizal Fungi is beneficial for many, but not all plants). Fill the space around the plant with soil until everything is level, and firmly press around the base of the plant, but not so firm as to compact the soil. Water the transplant in very well after planting. Additionally, you can cover the top of the soil around the plant with a light layer of mulch to help retain moisture.
*If you run the risk of frost in the night, cover up your new plants with frost cloth or use cloches to protect the new growth from damage.
As your plants grow, continue supplying water which becomes especially important when temperatures rise in the summer. Overwatering is a leading cause of plant stress and failure (or death). Most plants prefer to be watered deeply and infrequently rather than lightly and daily. Waterwise gardening is a must during the drier, warmer times. Avoid watering overhead if possible- instead, water right down at the base of the plant near the roots. This not only reduces evaporation, but also helps prevent fungal issues. Use mulch or compost around the base of plants to help soil stay moist and slow down evaporation. Water early in the morning to reduce evaporation, and also to avoid fungal issues. We have more info on Waterwise Gardening, complete with a list of plants that are great for waterwise gardening.
To aid in the growth and health of your plants, many organic fertilizer options are available. We carry a vast assortment of fertilizers that cover a range of specific plant needs. Our dry fertilizers are mostly slow-release and can be applied at the appropriate time to provide continual support to the plant without the risk of burning. Liquid fertilizers are excellent to aid in the continuous growth and health of the plant, and nutrients are more quickly available to the plant. For more on the importance of using organic and natural fertilizers, check out our information on Using Organic Fertilizers.
Crop Rotation and Cover Crops
Briefly, we want to mention the importance of crop rotation. Rotating your crops simply means that you change what type of plants you grow in “an area” or “a bed” or “a section of soil” every one or two years. The reason for rotation is that the soil structure can deteriorate over the years by the crop using up the same nutrients time and time again. Different crops have different nutrient requirements, and if you plant the same crop in the same place year after year, the soil can eventually become depleted. Pest problems also arise from not rotating your crops, as pathogenic fungi and insects who have a larval stage in soil can proliferate next to their food source. Aside from rotating your crops, you can also plant green manure, or cover crops, not only to protect the soil from the weather but also to replenish the soil with organic matter if mulched back in. Some cover crops (legumes) also help to fix nitrogen in the soil. Click here for more info on Cover Crops.