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Planting Spring Vegetables in the Edible Garden

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Spring is thought of as “planting time” in most non-tropical parts of the world. The timing of the arrival of Spring varies widely across climate, and varies within climatic zones as well from year to year.

For small-scale gardens, transplanting is the best option for successful vegetable production. You can buy “seedlings” or “starts” at a local nursery and plant them right into your cultivated garden soil, following the instructions below. The primary issue with buying seedlings is that you don’t get to have the same amount of say in which varieties of plants you grow as you do when you grow your own vegetables from seed, either in a greenhouse or by planting them directly into the soil. The other challenge is that buying seedlings is significantly more expensive than buying seeds or saving seeds from your own garden and germinating them on your own.

For more information on starting your own seeds, stay tuned for the release of our “Top 10 Techniques for Budding Gardeners” handbook, which will be released later this month!

Transplanting Lettuce - don't be afraid to carefully divide your seedlings!

Transplanting Lettuce – don’t be afraid to carefully divide your seedlings – avoid trying this on peas, beans and cucumbers/melons/squash!

 

Materials/Tools You Will Need:

– Gardening Trowel
– Watering Can
– Baby plants, often called “seedlings” or “starts”
– Measuring sticks (a handful of sticks of the same length intended for use as spacers between the plants.)
– Garden Signs or bed labels
– Edible Garden Planting Records (provided in the handbook)

Before You Begin:

1.) Make sure the plant you are transplanting is planted at the appropriate time of year.

2.) Water your seedlings before you remove them from their containers.

3.) Draw lines in the soil with the handle of a garden tool to guide yourself in planting even rows.

4.) Gather a few measuring sticks (branches of a tree or shrub, cut to the length of the distance you want to have between each plant).

Procedure:

1.) Make sure the bed is completely cultivated and has had compost and/or appropriate mineral amendments added to it (more to come on Fertility Management soon!).

2.) Count the plants and see how many rows will fit in the bed. In general, lettuces should be planted 6-8 inches apart, broccoli and other large-leafed plants should be about 12-16 inches apart. If the plants will be larger (like broccoli), planting 2 rows is appropriate if the bed is about 3 feet wide (optimal bed width). If plants are small (like lettuces, etc.), you can plant as many as 4 or 5 rows wide.

Note: Placing plants close together is beneficial because you will produce more food per square foot. But if plants are too close, they can crowd each other, stunt each others’ growth and deplete nutrients in the soil, so there is a balance to be found here.

3.) Use the spacer sticks to mark where each plant will go. Stagger parallel rows so that a quick triangle test with your spacer sticks shows you that your plants are evenly spaced apart from one another.

4.) Dig holes with the planting trowels in each spot that has been marked, or dig the holes as you plant.

5.) Remove the plants from their containers and place them in the holes.

Tip#1: When handling baby plants, hold them by the ends of their leaves whenever possible, not by the stem or root “plug” – also, try to prevent direct sun contact with the roots of the plant. If possible, position yourself between the sun and the baby plants to cast a shadow on the roots while you work.

6.) Cover the roots with soil and fill in the remaining space in the hole. You do NOT need to pack down the soil, which just makes it harder for roots to grow. It’s better to fill in the hole and push down lightly around the root plug in order to make sure there are no large air pockets around the roots.

Tip#2: Consider transplanting in the evening or in cooler/wetter weather whenever possible to lessen shock to the baby plants.

7.) Always water deeply after transplanting, taking care to deliver water to the roots of the transplanted seedlings, rather than to the leaves. If you’re concerned about using too much water during a drought, mulch your garden with straw or leaves and water deeply two times per week after transplanting. Also, consider simple water-saving techniques such as taking shorter showers and catching water from your sink or shower while you wait for water to heat up.

Watering in Transplanted Seedlings

Watering in Transplanted Seedlings

Wrap Up:

1.) Make sure to check that each plant is well situated.

2.) Soak the bed again. Remember: frequent, shallow watering is best for young plants (see Chapter #4 “Watering the Garden” for more details)

3.) Make sure to record the planting in the your Edible Garden Planting Records.

4.) Place the appropriate sign in the bed. If a sign does not exist for the crop in question, make one up out of a wooden garden stake. Use exterior paint or pencil as pen and felt-tip markets tend to wash off with rain and irrigation.

5.) Remember to include the crop, variety, seed source and date in all of you records and signage.

6.) Clean your tools and return them to storage out of the elements.

Happy Spring planting, gardeners!