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Let the Gardening Begin!

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Let the Gardening Begin!

It's time to think about planting In the Garden

It’s that time of year again when we look to the skies and the soils and ponder the question: to plant or not to plant? It can be a perplexing question, especially after a few teaser days of 70 degrees in April. You may think just because the snow is off your raised garden area it is time to dig in.  Alas, we will still have some cold, soaking rains in May and probably a few near freezing or below freezing nights so be prepared for anything… this is North Idaho.  

Planting seeds or transplants out too early, before the ground is warm enough to jump start their germination or begin the growth process, will only lead to mush and mud. Take a small amount of your garden soil in your hand and squeeze it in your hand. If the soil remains in a clump then you should wait to plant ‘til the soil dries out. If the soil crumbles through your hands like cake, then you can begin to choose your favorite early season crop and get started!  

Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension has developed a great planting guide, shown partly above, that includes most every vegetable you can also grow here in the north country. (The hardiness zone for Rutgers is similar to that in our area. You can get a complete copy of the planting chart at http://tinyurl.com/cpjt5ko To determine the exact hardiness zone for where you live, visit http://tinyurl.com/9slrr). Notice that many of your favorites like lettuce, chard, broccoli and radishes can be actually seeded in May, and then re-seeded for a second crop in July or August. Bonus! The only disagreement I have with the chart is in planting potatoes. In Idaho, our April is a bit too cold and the soil too wet, leaving your well-selected, certified seed potatoes to rot before they sprout. Wait to plant your potatoes when you see the dandelions in your neighborhood bloom, usually sometime in May.  

Don’t forget to branch out to a few new veggies every year—perhaps this year it’s sweet potatoes.  Up here, the best success for sweet potatoes has been found in planting them in large black pots in a hot, sunny location. The black bucket soaks up and stores the sun’s heat faster than raised beds and the portability of pots will allow you to cover them with plastic or move them into a hoop house to mature when September nights get cool. Sweet potato plants can not take any mild frost.

For those of you with limited space, Corn may not be a wise choice. Ideally you should have no less than 3 rows, 2 feet apart and 5 feet long, to get optimal cross pollination. My first paid job was pulling tassels from acres upon acres of corn fields in the hot August of Minnesota—but I still love fresh grilled corn on the cob!  

If you’d like a little help with your garden planning, check out this handy tool from the Mother Earth News at gardenplanner.motherearthnews.com

Cheers to Growth!

Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+ acre farm and now is co-owner of All Seasons Garden & Floral in Sandpoint,  She and her husband John have been cultivating environmental awareness and sustainable communities through horticulture for 15 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes at [email protected] 

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Nancy Hastings Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+ acre farm and is co-owner of All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint, She and her husband John have been cultivating community gardens and growing for 15 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes atllseasonsgardenandfloral(at)gmail.com.

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gardening, In the Garden, planting schedule

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