I feel like going outside and hugging my plants. If you have never had children or pets, you may not fully understand the emotional attachment that develops between a gardener and her garden when all of those beautiful little sprouted creatures have been started from seed. Without any practice I loved them, watered them and gave them what they needed and they (for the most part) did not disappoint… but let’s get down to it.
As I talked about earlier, with a little web research its possible to find out all there is to know about each plant, from its sunlight requirements to watering habits to fertilizer content. That being said, I still made a few mistakes. 1. NEVER underestimate the amount of sunlight lettuce and cabbage need. I ended up with tall, spindly plants which will survive but its not ideal. 2. Be patient. Some of my plants came up very late – peppers being the biggest culprit. 3. Label label label. When they first pop out, seedlings are very hard to tell apart… and 4. Map out your garden before you plant. Find out how many plants you can put per square foot and then draw it beforehand. All of these tips will help to make your gardening experience much more enjoyable.
Once your plants have come into the world and have spent an adequate amount of time in the greenhouse, its time to introduce them to the world. I kept my greenhouse area around 60-65 all the time. Once the outside thermometer read over 50, I began to open the door for a few hours a day and let the outside in. Little by little, increase the amount of exposure and, as it warms up, switch it up by letting them out to play and then bringing them back in once the sun leaves the area. When temps stay above 40-45 at night and your plants have spent about a week enjoying their days outside, you can begin to leave them out at night as well. **NOTE** When exposed to wind and sun they will get thirsty! Make sure to water them in the morning and evening if necessary… and get on building that garden – or your babies will be homeless!
I decided (with some good advice – use it when you get it!) to make 4×10′ raised beds using 2×6 pressure treated boards. They come in 10′ lengths so it saved a lot of cutting and they screwed together in a jif. If you choose to go this route you may want to invest in a liner. Pressure treated lumber does contain chemicals, and they will seep into your soil if there is no barrier to prevent it. I used a cheap roll of plastic sheeting, cut it into strips and stapled it to the top edge of the boxes.
after that (note the crazy grass) I lined the bottom with some silt fencing material we had laying around. Nothing like a bunch of grass growing through your hard work and competing for resources with your babies! Finally, and I admit with the help of my wonderful hubby, we added a half loom and half compost pile of dirt into each one and raked it out. If you’re planting tomatoes, slide in your tomato cages. Peas? Position your pea trellis. Guess what? You’re now ready to plant!
Before you go too crazy, here is what I learned. Wet soil is more user friendly. Make sure your seedlings are moist, so when you remove them from their pots they don’t fall to pieces. Next, water the empty beds. Yes, it will be a little messy, but if the sun is out and strong the day you plant, they will already be in moist soil and will not need to be watered immediately. SO! Using your planting map, begin putting everything in the ground. To avoid mistakes, place each flat into the corresponding bed. Things like carrot seeds and peas may need to be planted directly, so go ahead and drop those in place. After that, you’ll need scissors to cut the pots apart, gloves and trust me, something soft to sit or kneel on. Enjoy yourself, take breaks and remember all of the love you gave your plants will soon be returned to you in the form of delicious, fresh food! When you’re all finished and you’ve perfectly aligned your sprinkler, don’t forget to make a little something extra just for you… and when, long after the feeling of accomplishment should have worn off, and you still can’t stop going outside to visit your garden don’t worry, you’re not the only one 🙂