Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's Time!

Time for Spring Gardens!

Yes, it REALLY is!!!  Here in Florida, we are biting at the bit, pushing at the garden gate, and ready to dig in (pun intended!).  You MAY be somewhere that is still in the big chill, you might even be bracing yourself for yet another winter storm.  If that's so and you just can't stand to read this, I totally understand, but you might grab a tip that will come in handy in a month or two, so don't be so quick to run away just yet!

My sister in-law, April...

...has informed me that she and her hubby have purchased some veggie plants to pop into a garden this coming weekend.  She thought this would be a good time for me to do a blog about that very subject, and I'm glad she suggested it! :)
There is SO much that can be said about starting a Spring Garden, I'll try to make it as short and sweet as possible. I'm no gardening expert, but it is definitely one of my passions and I've spent the last 10 years gleaning information from various books, videos (and any nursery worker that wouldn't bend their ears to me).

The top 2 most important aspects, in my opinion, are LOCATION and SOIL, so let's hit those first.


You want your garden to have a good southern exposure.

For example I live in South Facing home, and I have a garden in my backyard.  It would be a bad idea for me to have that garden up against the back of my house, where it would most likely not recieve enough sun to grow a healthy garden.  Instead I chose the back of my yard, up agaist the fence.  This is great location because it recieves plenty of sun each day.  The idea is to plant your tallest plants, or climbing vines toward the back, and the shorter varieties toward the front (unless you want to give some shade to tender lettuce leaves in the harsh sun.


Here in Florida we suffer from SSS...that's my term for Super Sandy Soil. :) However, that doesn't make it impossible to garden, it just makes it a little bit more work.  Adding a lot of organic matter to your soil is the only way to achieve this.

Typical SSS in our yards or gardens...

Healthy Soil that has been amended...

Comparing the two...

One thing I HIGHLY recommend is Timberline Organic Compost.  I buy it in 40 lb bags for around $1.30.  I buy a BUNCH of bags and spread it liberally, about 3 inches thick, working it gently into the top 4-6 inches of soil.

There is one other thing I do, and if you can do it I HIGHLY recommend it.  I do the EASIEST style of composting I have ever heard of.  Simply collect your kitchen scraps, for a list of what to (or not to) compost, click here, or here.  Basically everything that's NOT meat or dairy is a good rule of thumb, to include coffee grounds, egg shells, old bread, seeds, veggies, fruit, even coffee filters.  I collect it all in a countertop canister.  When it's full, I bury it in my garden.  Move to another spot and bury more.  I do this all year long and plant in alternating rows.  It makes for a great gathering place for earthworms that break it down, making wonderful food for the roots of your plants.  Don't forget to toss in some dry leaves, twigs, and grass clippings every now and again.

Dig a trench or hole and dump in your goodies...stab them with your shovel a bunch of times to chop 'em up...

Cover with the soil and water well....

That's what works for me, but it's always a good idea to test your soil using an inexpensive test kit from the nursery.  This will tell you if you have acidic or alkaline soil and what you can add to amend it.
When purchasing plants for your garden, always choose compact plants that aren't lanky, yellowing, or dried out.  Check the bottom for roots.  If there are 3-5 teeny little roots dangling out, you're good to go.  If there is a mass of roots all tangled up at the bottom, put it back on the shelf and go elsewhere.
When I'm putting a plant into the ground, I like to dig a hole a few inches wider than the pot, add a little of that compost to the hole and stir it just a bit to mix.  Gently loosen the roots of your plant and place it in the hole.
Check to see that the top of the plant soil is going to be level with the ground, only cover it by about 1/2 inch of soil.  You don't want to bury it too deep, or you may kill it.  The exception????  Tomatoes...but we'll get there in a minute.
Gently push soil around the plant to fill it in and press ever so lightly to set it in place, water well and step away.  Don't walk around the edges of your plants, this presses soil down and makes for an unhealthy environment.
I am a bit of a rebel when it comes to spacing.  I've read far too many books that say it's OK to push the limit a bit if you are tight on space.  I usually space big things like peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower about 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart.  Lettuce 6 inches if I'm going to cut it as baby leaves, 8-10 inches if I'm going to let it grow fully.

A few things I have in my garden from "purchased plants"...

Green and Purple Cabbage...the green had a fight with some aphids, so it's in recovery mode... :)

The Purple is still trying to decide if he just wants to be leaves this year or actually form a head... ??

Herb patch...Flat Leaf Italian Parsley...spaghetti, meatballs, garnish...soups and stews...AND BUTTERFLIES!
  Italian Oregano...all of the above purposes, plus add to favorite mexican dishes too!, chicken, soups, sauces...Mmmmm
Curly leaf parsley...many of the same uses as flat leaf...
I don't eat these, lol...they are great around veggies as they help ward off some bad bugs in your garden...They also add a touch of sunny color that makes me smile. :)
Rosemary...oh YUM...Rosemary Olive Oil Bread!!!!  Plus a ton of other great dishes!


There are a few things that need to be planted from seed, because they just don't like being beans, peas and most tender vines, like cucumbers and melons prefer this method.  Another good reason to plant from seed is can choose so many different varieties when you purchase seeds than if you purchase plants at a garden center.
Follow the spacing directions on your seed packet.  Have fun with your rows, I like curves and using strange things for trellises, make your garden fun.  I use these ladders and old iron gates as trellises because I think they make a fun accent.  It's YOUR garden - enjoy it! 

I like to plant 2-3 seeds in the same space in case one doesn't sprout, or so I can pinch off the weakest one.  There are usually plenty of seeds in the packet for this if you have a small home garden.

I just 3 varieties of peas, they don't typically do well in our heat, but I like a good garden fight so I'm trying far so good...

Although I purchased this particular plant as is, I love to grow basil from seed, because it's easy!  If you let a couple of the plants bloom, let the flowers dry and then crinkle them in you hand, you'll have 100's of seeds to plant yourself!

My precious hubby built these herb box planters.  They are right outside the back door, and I can see them from my kitchen window.  While they don't receive enough sunlight to house tomatoes or peppers, they are great for tender lettuce and most herbs.  I like their close proxmity to the house, as I just pop out there while I'm cooking dinner and clip fresh herbs...


I always like to save a little spot in the garden for "experimentation".  These were a big surprise.  I had these unknown plants growing in the middle of my path, and thought they were tomato plants from a sore tomato I had buried, however when I dug them up, I realized they were potato plants!  They even had about 5 little new potatoes at the base...I was so excited!  I only buy organic potatoes, so I knew they weren't treated with anything and I figured, hey, why not see what they do.  I moved them to the "experimental spot" and here they are. 

I've never grown potatoes before, but I've read about them, so I have some clue on their growth habit.  I'm excited to see what happens here!

For the most part, until you get red tomatoes on your plants, your gardens are going to be don't forget to throw some color out there!!! :)


Have fun!  Gardening is a learning won't always go the way you planned, take your time, enjoy the process, get your hands dirty, grow something you've never eaten, throw caution to the wind and make your rows wavy instead of straight!  God gave us this great earth, and all these great foods, let's do our best to make Him smile while we learn how to handle it all.
 Happy Planting!


  1. AARRGGHH!!!!

    NO, you can't do this to me!!!

    It will be about 3 1/2 more months before we can do anything around here. And now I am drooling as I see dirt falling through your fingers.

    :::sigh:: I am envious. I will confess after I finish writing this.

  2. My parents do the gardening and then I come and eat it. LOL I want to do some pot gardening...but haven't yet.

  3. Love it! Love it! Can't wait till Spring. Even thought I am in an apartment, I WILL Garden. Nothing can keep the Ewing girls away from the dirt!! Woo Hoo - Get me a shovel!

  4. Thanks for all the great tips. I will come back and read this post again and again. Can't wait to get started.