When planning my seed garden for the season, there are many factors I take into consideration. The most important is growing the things my family enjoys eating.
With this in mind, I head to the garden center to see what fun and exciting new seeds they have to offer this year! When choosing my seeds I start with a few new seeds that really excite me, usually this will be one or two new varieties of squash. Then I look for seeds that are most likely to thrive in my local climate and soil conditions, these are usually Utah State University recommended varieties.
Put a Plan on Paper
So with my seed packets in hand, I start by putting the dimensions of my garden space on paper. This process allows me to visualize the space I have to work with. I also refer to the seed packages and take into consideration the maximum size the plant will become. With the garden location getting plenty of sunlight,
I plan for the tall plants to be on the north side of my beds so the shorter ones will get the maximum amount of sunlight they need to produce well. I give the plants enough space for good air circulation, which helps minimize diseases that an overcrowded garden can get.
After planning the garden layout the next step is to amend the soil that it is well-drained. By adding organic matter to the soil, about 3 inches each year, it helps improve the drainage as well as add nutrition to the garden space. The organic matter can consist of many tings, and the time of the year in which I add the organic matter helps me determine what to use. If adding in the fall, I use steer manure and leaves followed by some ammonium sulfate (about 2 lbs. per 100 square feet) and turn this into the soil. When organic matter is added in the spring, the material should be fully composted to avoid nitrogen deficiency in the garden beds. Whether I add the organic matter in the fall or the spring, I will always add my favorite multi-purpose fertilizer and work it into the soil as I prepare the beds for spring planting.
Time and Temperature
For those of us who want to get an early jump on the vegetable garden, we will start with cool crops. Things such as peas, lettuce, chard and spinach can be sowed directly into the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Knowing the date of the last frost for my area helps me determine when the soil will be warm enough for seed germination for crops such as corn, beans and squash (warm corps). Generally this should be done a week or so later than the last frost. Also tomato and pepper starts should be added to the garden at this time. These starts can be grown by seed indoors eight to ten weeks prior.Seeds started inside should be grown in a seed starting mixture, making sure to follow the depth chart on the packet. Whether I use seed tray inserts or peat pellets, it is important to keep the seed medium slightly moist until germination takes place. I use a water bottle to make sure the surface remains moist until the plant breaks the soil surface. I then water from the bottom in a wicking fashion by using a seed tray. Seeds respond well to warmth and light. Using a heating mat to start the germination process and a light source close to the seedlings once they have germinated will encourage maximum growth for transplanting.
Once I have my garden amended I start the seed planting process. I start with making a row, which works best for me because I use a furrow irrigation method for watering. This allows me to plant on the upper edge of my water row so when I water, I do not wash my seeds away. As I plant down the row, I make sure to give all of my seeds a small sip of water from the top, followed by irrigation of the water row to saturate the soil. Your water schedule may vary depending on our soil and climate conditions, but I deep-water once a week. If you don’t have irrigation water, it’s not necessary to flood the whole row. You just want to makes sure to saturate the soil around the plant so the water makes it to the entire root system.
Soon my garden seeds will push through the soil surface and I will by enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of my labor.