Adventures in Gardening: Gearing Up to Plant!
In sunny southern Georgia, it has been spring for a month and our last frost date is March 31st, which means I can start planting things in my garden as soon as next week. However, I’m planning on holding off until the second week of April. Here is what I’ve been doing to get ready for planting.
The Seeds are Growing
Surprisingly, my tomato plants are doing better than any of the others, closely followed by the bell pepper plants. This is good, as those were the ones I most wanted to succeed and the only ones I can’t direct plant if they don’t. My marigolds, which were the first ones to germinate, still have not gotten any real leaves. Yesterday I looked up online some of the plants I’ve been having trouble with (marigolds, oregano, basil) and found out that it is warm enough here for me to direct plant the seeds into the ground, so that’s good. I’ve also figured out why they aren’t producing leaves yet—not enough light! I’ve had most of the light on the tomato plants and consequently, some of the rest are not growing as they should. I’ve put as many under the two strongest lights as I can. For the rest of them, I figure if they can hold out for another week or two, I’ll get the tomato plants moved outside for the hardening off week, and then put the other neglected plants under the lights and see if I can get them to grow too.
Tilling Up the Ground
My father in law tilled up my plot. Actually, he tilled up WAY more than I will ever plant because he said its just as easy to till the whole length of the field as it is to till my little section. The plan is for my garden to be about 20 feet wide by 30 feet long. I think I may have gotten in over my head, but once I do something, I tend to jump in with both feet first.
What to Do With the Rest of the Tilled Ground (Or Preparing for My Fall Garden)
Since there is so much ground tilled (20 feet wide by at least 100 feet), I am going to use another 20 x 20ish foot section to plant hairy vetch in. You may be wondering, as I was, what on earth is hairy vetch? Good question. Hairy vetch is a cover crop, similar to clover, that adds nitrogen to the soil. I’ll plant it this spring, mow it right when it starts to bloom, which will kill it. Then I can leave it until I’m ready to till for my fall garden. In addition to the nitrogen, it’ll add some needed organic matter to my soil. (As a side note, its kind of crazy how long the growing season is here in GA. I’ll bee planting again in August.)
With the next 20 or 30 feet after the hairy vetch, I’m going to plant a bunch of wild flower seeds. It’ll attract bees to the area and will just be pretty. I think we’ll all enjoy that and you can get bags of wildflower seeds inexpensively.
As for the rest of it (I told you he ploughed a lot!) my FIL plans to plant corn for the critters to eat. Hopefully the critters that eat stuff will stay away from my section and down by all of the flowers and corn!
I’ve been driving myself crazy trying to figure out what to do about adding needed nutrients to my ground without using 10-10-10 like everyone keeps telling me to. I’ve also been told I need to add composted manure, but when I looked it up, I would need 5-8 pounds per square foot. With 500 square feet of garden, that would be over a ton of manure! I can’t afford that. So, I did the next best thing, and went and got some horse poop from my in-laws barn. They only had about a wheelbarrow full, but I figured some is better than none. As promised, here are the pictures of me with the horse poo.
My other helper :)
I’ve also added blood meal, bone meal, and wood ash to my plot to try to add essential nutrients to the ground. I’m still researching other natural fertilizers and I’ve asked one of my friends who has been organic gardening a long time to write up a guest post about fertilizer. (You can look for that in the coming weeks.)
Working on the Compost Pile
The compost inside the compost barrel is coming along slower than I thought it would. I’m pretty sure its because I haven’t painted it black yet, so it isn’t getting warm enough inside. I think I need more brown matter in there too. It doesn’t look like dirt yet, but it smells like soil (and not rotting veggies!), so I think we are on the right track. I’m going to add some shredded newspaper and paint the barrel black and see if I can get it going!
Planning the Garden
I discovered an awesome new website for garden planning called Grow Veg. I love it! You can put in how large your plot is and then place the plants in the plot. The program automatically tells you how much space you need to leave around each plant so you can plan accordingly. Its super easy to use — just click on the plant and then click where you want to place it in your garden. I’ve come up with a couple different scenarios thus far and will continue to work on it. (I can’t figure out how to share my plan with everyone and I can’t fit the whole thing in to do a screen shot of it. So here’s half of my garden. :)
I’m looking forward to getting the plants in the ground! I’d love to hear how some of your garden plans are coming along.
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