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Amanda has been reading our updates for quite awhile now – as a beginning gardener, she asks great questions that I try to answer in the Comments section.
The other day, I wrote about Starting Seeds Indoors Under Lights. Amanda left a comment and I thought I should write up a post with more information. Please let me know if this helps you out too, as I know we have a lot of beginning gardeners reading our site. Got more questions? Just ask them in the Comment section and I will try to help you out.
Here’s Amanda’s comments with her questions:
You mentioned direct seeding, which means you’re just putting seeds in the dirt and watering them right? I hear how everyone starts seeds indoors, and I can’t do that with two curious cats in the house. I’m moving to a new place where I can have a very small outdoor garden though, so I’m going to try to put stuff directly in the ground. Hopefully it’s not too late to plant stuff here. I’m going to have to find a bunch of dirt and get some manure or something though, because the little area that I can use has nothing substantial in it.
I’d sure like to try growing something! There is a pre-existing rhubarb plant in the yard, but it looks choked out by scrub and small trees around it, so I will have to move that into the sun and try not to kill it.
Do you have any suggestions for someone who can barely keep houseplants alive? I’d like to try just a few easy to grow plants. Something that is very very difficult to kill.
Oh, what’s your favorite food to plant?
Direct seeding is exactly what you write. It is just planting the seeds right into the garden and then watering them and letting them grow to harvesting stage. Before you plant, though, you need to build your soil up somewhat.
Your timing is spot on – now or in the next several weeks are ideal times to start putting in seeds. In Canada, and I think much of the US too, the recommended date to plant is at the end of May. You’ve got a few weeks to plan, buy seeds, work the soil and then start planting.
You write that you now have room for a small garden (yeahhhh!) and you are correct in thinking you need to get some good dirt or manure in there. If you can, pick up some well composted manure (and the important thing is that it is Well Composted). It should have been sitting for 3 months – if you can verify that, shovel up as much as you can and bring it home for your garden bed.
If you don’t have access to composted manure from a farm or friends, find some inexpensive bagged manure at the store. It can be pretty much any kind, steer manure, pig manure, mushroom manure…whatever. More expensive does not always mean it is a much better quality. Composted is composted, right?
Here’s a partial list of really easy veggies to direct seed:
Peas – easy peasy as long as you have a trellis or fencing wire for them to grow up against. You can get peas you need to shell before eating, or get some Sugar Snaps. You can just eat the whole thing, pod and all. What’s easier than that?
Radish – They are a quick grower and very tasty. They don’t require anything extra, just sow the seeds and stand back. Because radishes grow so fast, I sometimes use them as a “row marker” for things like carrots, which take much longer to germinate. Put a few radish seeds at the end of every row, and you can easily tell where your rows are.
Carrots – OK, they are easy to grow, B UT…they need really well worked soil. Deep, rock free soil. If you don’t have that this year, you may be better off to forget about growing carrots. Over time, as your soil level gets built up in your garden, you can plant carrots.
Onions – if you like onions, just buy onion sets at the garden center. These are little wee onions that, once planted, will grow into those nice big onions you see at the market. You can start them from seed, but really, they take so long to get going, it’s probably better to just buy a small bag or handful of onion sets and plant those.
Lettuce and other Greens – If you like eating salads, be sure to plant some greens. They are very easy to grow and you can even get seed packs with mixed green seeds inside. One exception, I think, is Arugala. We love the taste, but they go to flower and then to seed so fast for us here, it’s not worth planting.
When you want to harvest your greens, you can either dig up the whole plant or just snip some of the leaves. This way, the plant itself will continue growing and give you even more greens.
There you go – a few really easy vegetables to grow to get you started. And, when you are just starting gardening, why plant things that are difficult to grow and need lots of attention? If you start small and end up your season well satisfied with your efforts and rewards, then next year you can always add a veggie or two that is considered more difficult to grow!
Now, about your rhubarb plant – I would not move it right now. Rhubarb is very hardy and it’s hard to kill and I think you may get a good harvest from it this year if you just leave it alone. You may want to dig up some of the scrub bushes around it to give it more room to grow. One more thing – at some point, you will see the huge stalk coming straight up the middle of the rhubarb. CUT it off as soon as you see it. This will mean more energy will go into making the stalks big and strong and this is what you want.
Never feed rhubarb leaves to any animals, the leaves are poisonous.
The leaves are so large, when I cut the stalks, I just put the leaves down around the rhubarb plant itself. It acts as a mulch and will stop weeds from growing as no light gets through.
My favourite veggie to grow? Hmmm, can I only pick one? Spinach is right up there at the top of the list, easy to grow, really good for us to eat healthwise and I love it raw!
I also love growing Garlic….and green beans….and wait, I love growing broccoli…oh, it is very hard to pick only one! Much success to you with your garden this year, and please be sure to let us know how it is working out for you!