It's Time to Plant our Organic Summer Gardens!
As summer is getting near, the days are becoming warmer and I can't help but get excited to plant my gardens, flower beds, revamp my succulent containers and create new ones! PLANTS PLANTS PLANTS! Okay, I'll calm down. I am normally at my own home in the valley, where I built my own garden beds and sweet little set up, but due to the fires I have been relocated for the year, to my favorite place on earth! Yes people, back at home with my mom and dad! Luckily, we have a nice property here and the garden beds are intact and ready to rock. Here is a little prepping, step-by-step guide on getting your garden booming, for a boasting supply of amazing, colorful, "much more flavorful then store-bought," array of veggies, herbs and flowers.
When to start your garden:
May 1st is a solid, just about perfect time to place your veggie starts in a hot house, as the nights are still a little brisk. Disclaimer: My family is nuts, we started ours a little over a month ago, so they are dramatically more vegged. See below for more information regarding vegging.
Where to purchase vegetable & herb starts:
Personally, I go to my local nurseries, to purchase the most unique and interesting tomatoes I can find. I also find a great selection at Whole Foods. I make sure to only purchase ORGANIC. My favorite local north bay nurseries for all types of plants, succulents, veggies, herbs, and indoor plants are: Bennet Valley Gardens & Kings Nursery.
My go to list:
- 5-10 Heirloom & Varietal Tomatoes -> This year I found, Black Krim, Anana's Noire, Brandywine Pink, Orange Jubilee, Green Zebra, & Mortgage Lifter.
- Lemon Cucumbers
- Burpless Green Cucumbers
- Summer Pac Crookneck Squash
- Acorn Squash
- Bush Zucchini Squash
- Green Onions
- Green Beans (From Seed)
- Giant Pumpkins (Because it's fun)
- Mint, Rosemary & Basil
Where to purchase a green house and what size:
First things first, if you want really happy babies, with strong roots prior to transplanting in your outdoor garden, I highly recommend transplanting into bigger containers (5 -10 gallon) and vegging them in a warm, humid hot house (green house). Depending on how many items you want to grow, depends on the size of the green house. I have had a small 4' x 4' pop-up and it was perfect for a small garden, with 3 - 5 gallon containers. We already have a large one here, so I didn't need to purchase any this year. They come in all kinds of sizes and designs, pick the one that works for you. They all basically work the same, keep them zipped up at night and make sure to vent them in the morning so they don't roast and die in the sunlight all day. If it is a really warm day, 80+ I would recommend any kind of fan for an airflow. See a huge variety on Amazon.
How to transplant your starts for ultimate vegging growth:
Once you have purchased your vegetable & herb starts, they should be rooted enough for transplant. If the soil is falling apart and loose, they are not a strong start. Choose more mature plants if possible, if that's all you're working with, give them a week or so in that specific container. Once you're ready to transplant, first fill your desired pots with the soil, make a hole and gently squeeze the base of the container to loosen the edges and then turn upside down while grasping the base of the stem with your other hand and slide it out. Place it in the container and gently pack the dirt in and around it to level. Ask your nursery what kind of tomato you have if you are not familiar with how to plant them. Some tomatoes come grafted and cannot have the base of the stem covered with soil or it will die. Other tomatoes (non-grafted) need to have the base of the stem planted a little deeper. Once you have them all transplanted, give them a good watering, making sure to water the outside edges more, so the roots will reach. See more below regarding watering.
What soil to use:
I personally use Tupur Organica, you can purchase this at nearly every Hydro store or Nursery. It is a nutrient rich, clean soil with a good amount of pearlite to keep things draining well and preventing root rot. Do not get ripped off... If you go to a Hydro store, request a price match of $9.00 - $9.75 MAX. Or go somewhere else. Soil is marked up everywhere, you just have to push them around a bit.
What and when to water:
Fertilizing... Outdoor gardens really don't need much more then straight water out of the hose, if you are super crazy about it, you can get into filtering and "PH"ing your water but it's really unnecessary. Once a month go ahead and give them a little boost with an Organic Fertilizer, following the instructions on the container. Do not spray the water on your plants or it will burn them and always water a few inches outside of the base of the plant and the surrounding soil. After your first initial waterings, you want to make the roots reach to find the water, so they can grow bigger and stronger. Water a few inches outside the base of the plants and the surrounding areas of soil, just like when you fertilize. Do not waterlog your beds, water thouroughly but only once you've given them a little time to drink it up and dry out a little. If the beds or containers are wet, and not dry from 2" into the soil, do not water. As they grow bigger and the days get hotter, you will notice that they need more water. Setting up a drip system is always an option, but nothing is better then being hands on with your garden. For me, it's a nice break from the world and spending some time in your garden is good for the mind, body & soul!
Where to plant and how they grow:
All plants grow differently, depending what you are growing, depends where they need to be planted. Here are some examples.
- Tomatoes generally get crazy, large and wide, they need a tomato cage to contain them. Last year I used 42" cages from Home Depot, those work for most people and they come in cute, bright colors. But I outgrew them majorly, because my beds are open to the earth below and I have great soil on my property, there was no end to the possibilities haha. Long story short, we purchased bulk caging this year and made our own, much larger, we cut and wired them together. See photos for reference. For sunlight, they do great in direct sun, planted at least 4' apart.
- Cucumbers also need a cage to crawl up, I plant them about 2' apart and in a partially shaded area throughout some part of the day.
- Squashes all thrive in the direct sun, don't panic if they are wilting on a hot day, they just do that and then bounce back at night. These are also vigorous growers and need a lot of space, 5' apart and generally do well in their own planters.
- Kale grows like crazy, I personally plant them about 1.5" apart in rows of 5 x 2. This was a ton of kale, and the crazy thing is, you can continuously harvest it by cutting leaves off or take the whole bunch but leave a few inches at the base and a new growth will come. Kale is perfect for summer juicing, full of goodness, you can hide that bitter taste under some oranges, apples, & ginger etc.
- Beets are a little more difficult, from planting them and knowing when they're ready, to keeping them happy. In my experience, I have done better with pre-vegged, nursery bought starts, I plant them about 5" apart and water them a little less then everything else, in a partially shaded area. Be patient, they will surface a little when they are ready.
- Green Beans are the one item I plant from seed, I wet the soil well and place seeds about 2" apart across the entire back edge of my planter about 8' long. On both ends I had built posts to support a net or wire caging for them to crawl up. They thrive in a partial sun area, if you have the option.
- GIANT Pumpkins... Yay! If you have the space and some extra soil, this is such a fun project. Watching them spread and grow is amazing. The Soil King gave me a beautiful giant pumpkin start last spring & they turned out huge! I used a 100 gallon smart pot, I cut a large X in the bottom so it could root through to the earth. I kept it on a dripper and let it do it's thing. I learned that once you have a handful of pumpkins starting to grow, pinch off the weaklings leaving five or less, so the plant can fuel those main ones. Also an important step, once you have your main survivors, CAREFULLY, roll it to the side or pick each one up and place a flake of straw under it, so they don't rot into the earth and die. They also love tea blends, if your really trying to go big and they love a lot of water on hot days. Once this plant is established, I would give them a lot more water, whenever the top of the soil looks dry, toss the hose out there for 10 minutes or so. This plant also wilts in the heat, do not panic! It ended up spreading so far and wide, I felt like cinderella on my giant pumpkin ha!
Okay so I've done both, purchased beds and built them, it's up to you. I used these water troughs as planters in between the ends of each of my wooden raised beds. They looked so cute, it changes up the look of a usual garden! I found them at Friedmans, but since they don't have an online supply site, I linked a similar one on Tractor Supply & Hardware. Also from Friedmans are pre fab wooden raised beds, there are multiple different sizes. They are basically like the ones I built in the photos, but without having to build them. See photos for reference. If you want to take the time to build some beds yourself, it's fairly simple if you have a tool bag. Or borrow someone who knows how to build for a couple hours. I purchased redwood boards, per the 8' x 4' beds I was going for. You will also need heavy duty fasteners and chicken wire, ask an associate for help. For three beds, I purchased 9, 8' redwood boards, cut three of them in half and made an 8' X 4' bed. Fasten the corners top, center and base. Using a staple gun, staple the chicken wire the the bottom, covering completely to avoid gophers... Disclaimer: They will find their way into your garden and they will kill your plants from eating at the roots. At my parents house, they have beds and added smart pots to gain and even larger growing space, cutting the bottoms just like I did with my pumpkin. You can also add T-posts like you see in the pictures, but like I said we go a little overkill, I will post a progress photo later in the season so you can understand! On a design note, I also put solar lights in the sides of each of my planters!
Mosquitoes, flies, beetles and other pesky insects are highly disturbing when you’re trying to enjoy the outdoors and when your garden is trying to thrive but there’s no need to spray down your yard with toxic sprays. Here are a few items you can plant, to keep the pests at bay.
1. Petunias - These bright-colored flowers are often planted to repel squash bugs, beetles and aphids. They need a sunny spot, so try them near, or inside your vegetable garden or in a window box.
There’s an oil in basil that kills mosquito eggs. Plant basil in pots near gathering areas to ward off flies and mosquitoes and to use in caprese' all summer long.
These pretty, sun-loving plants are often used by farmers to keep pests at bay. They’ll help keep mosquitoes and aphids out of your yard. I plant them directly in the beds all around the edges and it also makes it look so nice.
The same scent that we love and enjoy absolutely deters flies, moths and mosquitoes. Plant it if you have a sunny garden, or keep a few bouquets around to ward off the pests.
In addition to repelling mosquitoes, potent rosemary will help protect your vegetable plants from infestation. Rosemary is an aggressive grower, best planted in a place you don't mind growing into a hedge!
This pleasant-smelling plant (along with its cousin lemon balm) helps repel biting insects. It’s best to plant mint in pots, because it will spread like crazy as well.