4 Steps to Starting a Vegetable Garden
Avis Licht is a landscape gardener, educator, and author of the wonderful book, The Spring Garden Made Easy. Her passion is to create beautiful gardens that incorporate edibles that can be harvested year round. In California where I live, spring is just around the corner. I asked Avis to share her expert advice about sowing seeds for starting a spring vegetable garden. The following is her advice.
Seeds, though small in size, are a force of nature. They carry the future in their tiny shell. All the information to grow a mighty oak is in that tiny acorn. In nature, every seed is slightly different and allows for the possibility of change: sometimes better, sometimes worse than its parent. Depending on the conditions after sprouting, a seed can grow strong and healthy or be weak. Like a person with a strong immune system, a healthy plant can withstand disease and attack by pests.
I’m not going to get into a discussion here about hybrid seeds or GMO, but allow me to say that healthy plants produce healthy seeds, and it is to your benefit to choose seeds from reputable companies that sell healthy and organic products.
It is then up to you to make sure you give those seeds the right growing conditions: from the soil you use to plant them, to the sun and warmth for sprouting. In this post you’ll learn how to mix your soil, sow seed, cover it and water it. It sounds simple, and is, but there are a few basic things you can do to ensure success.
1. Choose your seeds: Pick the right plant for your climate, and sow it at the right time. Pick your favorite veggies and see if they are appropriate for your climate and the size of your garden. You can do this by googling your plant, reading seed packets, or talking to your gardening neighbors. They often have the best information. In the U.S. you can get a lot of information on the website SmartGardener.com by typing in your zip code.
2. Mix your seed starting medium: Seeds have enough energy in them to germinate and grow their first true leaves. After that they need some, but not a lot of nutrition in their sprouting medium. We can call this “needing breakfast.” I mix my own compost or earthworm castings in with a medium such as the Seed Starter from E.B. Organics. This starter contains sphagnum moss, perlite, and gypsum. It is clean, light and has no real nutrients. Seeds will germinate and send roots quickly into the medium. By mixing it with a little compost, or earthworm castings, you will add “breakfast.”
3. Sow your seeds on the surface. In the small six pack planters (recycled, of course, from previous use), I put two seeds per section. In the larger two-inch pots, I put in four seeds, and in the four-inch container, I put six to eight seeds. I use the larger pots for quick-germinating larger plants, like chard and broccoli. I use the smaller pots for lettuce, spinach, bok choy and smaller plants. Lightly cover the seeds. The smaller the seed, the less soil on top. Your seed packet will tell you how deep to cover your seed.
4. Lightly water your seeds. A heavy flow of water will displace your seeds. Use the lightest setting on your watering wand, a light sprinkling can or a spray bottle. Be sure that your medium is moist before you put the seed in it. You want it moist, but not soaking wet. Seeds need to be kept moist until germination. If they are in the sun, be sure to water them a few times a day.
You’re now ready to grow wonderful, delicious food in your edible landscape. Whether you have pots on the deck, a few square feet, or an entire yard for growing, only do as much as you can happily take care of. Remember, you’re trying to enjoy this project!
Learn more about Avis Licht:
Avis Licht has been teaching and installing beautiful edible landscapes in California since 1978. She is the co-founder of Commonweal Garden in Bolinas, California, an organic farm and permaculture teaching garden, and holds a B.S. in Conservation of Natural Resources from U.C. Berkeley. She was co-author of the Feasibility Study for the Organic Farm and Garden of the College of Marin, which is now a major teaching center. She lives in Marin County and has designed hundreds of beautiful edible landscapes. After 35 years of gardening and designing gardens, she now shares her experiences in her own delightful and informative blog.
Follow Avis’s Blog: Edible Landscaping Made Easy
Avis’s acclaimed new book, The Spring Garden Made Easy, now an ebook, covers all aspects of starting a vegetable garden. It is a wonderful read filled with valuable gems for any garden lover!