The best way to get plants going depends on what you’re growing
Each year when the first warm breath of spring has tickled your inner gardener awake from winter’s drowsy hibernation, it’s easy to surrender to the seduction of a seed catalog with its color pictures of glossy veggies and pretty blooms. Equally alluring is the sight of tender green sprouts aligned in neat rows at your favorite garden center.
Seeds or seedlings? That is the question. The answer is — both.
Some plants are easier to get going from starter plants. Others grow best from seeds sown directly in the ground. Before you roll up your sleeves and start digging, a little advance planning can help you have the best of both worlds.
Even gardening veterans will seek out seedlings for such staples as tomatoes, which need a lot of TLC if started from seed. Other vegetables that benefit from a head start before being set in the garden include squash, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano and dill. Starter plants are available at nurseries, garden centers and even at some grocery stores. Farmers markets are a great source of plants, especially varieties that grow well in your area, and the farmers selling them can offer handy tips on plant care, pest control, harvesting and using your crops.
If you want to add color to your vegetable garden, pick up a couple of flats of flowering annuals to accent your rows.
Other garden goodies are easy to grow from seeds, including lettuces and other greens, radishes, peas, beans and root vegetables. It’s one of the most satisfying things in a gardener’s world to watch a bare row turn green with tiny seedlings that will produce tasty food.
Off to a good start
Whether you decide to plant seeds or starts, or both, it helps to know the varieties that do best in your area. Talk to the folks at your favorite nursery or garden center to get tips on what plants work well in the garden together, and do some research on soil, sunlight and water requirements. Does your neighbor have a garden that’s the envy of the block? Seek out his or her advice — gardeners love talking about their gardens almost as much as they love planting and tending them.
Dig in and write it down
Gardening is a hands-on enterprise, and you’re going to have to get your hands dirty to ensure a bountiful harvest. Before you put the first seed or plant in the ground, you need to prepare your soil so that it nurtures and feeds your future vegetables.
Good garden dirt should be enriched with compost and tilled so that it’s loose and not compacted. Read seed packets and follow the directions for planting, and the same goes for starter plants, which usually come with directions for plant spacing and care. Learn to recognize weeds so you can pull the interlopers before they crowd out your crops. Invest in a gardening book that spells out the basics — it will become a much-thumbed, dirt-stained bible.
And keep a garden journal, noting what works and what doesn’t, and when certain crops were planted and harvested. It will help you plan next year’s planting.
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