Once you have your seedlings growing strong and you've properly hardened them off (more on that next week) it is time to plant your seedlings in the garden. But where should you plant them? It may seem like a given that you'll just go out and stick them in a hole and watch them grow, but it's not always that simple. What if your soil is rocky, clay soil that's water retentive? (Then you just might live in Tennessee!) What if your soil is sandy and has trouble retaining water? Not every gardener is gifted with the perfect soil but there are ways around it that will help your produce a great garden.
What's Your Soil Like?
First you should figure out what kind of soil you have before you plant your seedlings. One of the best resources you have available to you is your local university agricultural extension service. The Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service offers soil testing for a fairly low price and will even provide a custom evaluation of the soil for the crops you intend to grow. For example if you want to start a blueberry farm and your soil doesn't have the ideal pH for blueberries the soil test results will come back to you with soil amendment recommendations tailored for your garden's blueberries. I've never actually gotten a soil test since most of my vegetable gardening is done in raised beds and I've been able to control the soil that goes into them.
Also I should mention that one of the services agricultural extension services offer is that of identifying plant diseases - this can be an extremely valuable tool in your gardening arsenal! Remember knowledge is power, right?
The easiest way to improve your soil is to add compost. So if you aren't composting kitchen scraps, yard waste, and leaves - START COMPOSTING!
I love gardening in raised beds! There are numerous advantages to gardening in raised beds including control of the soil like I previously mentioned. Raised beds can come in different styles as unique as the gardener. The standard wooden rectangular bed is an old favorite but you don't have to purchase anything to build a raised bed - just mound up! Take soil from the edges or walkways and pile it up into a row shape with the sides sloped downward. Keep the soil raised in the middle and you gain the drainage benefits of a raised bed without having to buy any materials. You could use recycled materials to put together raised bed just make sure they are non-toxic.
Before you build your raised beds and put them in place consider your raised bed garden layout. Once you've put your raised beds down you don't want to move them every year. Trust me, I've done that!
|Our apartment deck vegetable garden|
- circa 2006 A.D.
Pots and Planters
Many vegetables will grow very well in pots or planters. My first few gardens were on the back deck of our apartment. I grew cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, and other vegetables on the back deck. In fact it's very similar to growing in a raised bed except easier to move around! There are even custom kits you can get that make watering the plants easier. The EarthBox Garden Kit (Amazon Link)
is one kind of grow box that allows you to water directly to the roots system and has a reservoir to hold water that will wick up into the soil.
You could purchase this kind of planter but you can also make one yourself. Just take a look at the resources in the box to the right.
But you know, a deep pot will work just fine!
The Traditional Garden
There's always the traditional garden. This type of garden is typically grown in rows of crops directly in the soil. It's a tried and try way to garden and works very well if your soil is workable. Often rows are set up and tilled then some sort of straw mulch is placed in between the rows to keep weeds down. You could also periodically till the rows to keep weeds down.
The Layered Garden
Layering organic materials to create a garden is another method that works great. It doesn't break the soil up which could potentially harm beneficial organisms in the soil and relies on the organic mater trickling down into the soil. Today this method is known as Lasagna Gardening (a book by Patricia Lanza at Amazon)
but also as sheet composting. It's simple and easy. Using layers of various organic materials including leaves, grass clippings, newspapers, cardboard, kitchen scraps and others you can create a healthy, organic soil system for your seedlings.
Labels: raised beds, Seed Sowing 101, seeds and seed starting