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Monday, April 01, 2013

Cool weather gardening

I have begun my gardening for this year, even though we are expected to have a few more days of wintry temperatures. We got some below-freezing temperatures last week.

I checked today, and the onions and radishes are sprouting. I have also planted sugar pod peas, lettuce, carrots, and kale. These have yet to make their appearance, but I feel confident they will do so in a few days.

These are all considered cool weather crops which makes them fairly safe to plant here in the South, even though we can’t seem to get rid of winter.

I noticed my lemon balm and mint are also starting up in the herb bed, as well as the chives. My asparagus looks pretty pitiful, though. The chickens had scratched among them a lot last year and it almost killed them completely. However, they are trying to grow now. We won’t be cutting any fresh, delicious asparagus from them, though, because they were so severely set by by the chicken damage.

If you have kids, and I assume you do if you’re reading this blog, this would be a great time to get them started on gardening. You can use pots, number 10 cans, plastic milk jugs cut in half, or just about any kind of container to grow small salad vegetables such as radishes, lettuce, and green onions.

You can even just cut into a bag of good potting soil and plant your seeds directly into that, if you want. Shallow rooted plants will do just fine in that. A friend uses half rotted bales of straw or hay for planting. Be sure these are place where the veggies will get lots of sun. Just open up a few spots on the hay, put in a bit of potting soil to help the seeds get started, then watch them grow. As they develop, their roots will take good advantage of the decomposing hay for their nutrients. You will probably need to water them a little more often than other methods because water tends to flow through the hay, but I’ve seen some awesome plants growing like this.

You can actually plant your tomatoes and peppers in the rotted hay setup and harvest plenty of fresh tomatoes and peppers later. Be sure to cover tender plants such as these this early in the year because they just aren't cold-hardy. You can use old milk jugs with the caps removed (for ventilation) and the bottoms cut out for individual plant “hot caps”.

Small backyard or patio gardening is a great way to introduce your child to the benefits of fresh vegetables and a way to teach them where some of their food really comes from.

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