Get a Head Start on Planning Your Organic Salad Garden

You don’t need to wait until the spring thaw to start planning your summer garden. In fact, now is a great time to get the process going so you can beginharvesting and eating vegetables and herbs you grow yourself in as little as two months. Here’s how:

1) Make a plan. Keep it simple, and focus on vegetables you actually like to eat. For example, don’t grow broccoli if you hate the stuff. If you just want a salad garden, consider different lettuces, spinach and other greens. Cucumbers, tomatoes and onions are all easy options depending on where you live. And don’t forget herbs like basil, oregano and thyme.

2) Select your growing space. Is it a garden plot, raised beds or containers on a porch or patio? The amount of space you have will determine what you can grow, how much you can grow and how much variety you can have.

3) Knowhow muchdirect sunlight you have. Most vegetables need at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. You may have a lot of sunlight in the spring before shade trees leaf out, but come summer, not nearly enough sun. Plan accordingly, so that when you transplant your seedlings, you’ll be putting them into a space where they can thrive.

4) Pick organic, non-GMO seeds.Companies like High Mowing Seeds, the Sustainable Seed Company and Seeds of Change offer seeds for any vegetable or herb you’d want to grow. Consider heirloom seeds while you’re at it; they often have a deeper flavor than more conventional veggies. Plus, heirlooms may be more resistant to pests and drought conditions if they’ve evolved in the region where you’re planting them.

5) Start seedlings 6 weeks before you can put them outside, which in most locales is the day of the last anticipated frost in your region. Fill plantable peat pots with compost-rich soil and plant a seed in each one so you can plant them directly in the ground when they’re ready. Keep them moist to the touch; you don’t want to overwater. The seeds will need to be placed in a very sunny window or under grow lights to sprout and develop strong enough roots sothey can easily be transplanted when the time comes.

6) Get your garden soil ready with compost. At the same time you plant your seedlings indoors, start adding well-decomposed compost to the soil outdoors. The richer your soil is with biological nutrients, the better your seedlings will thrive.

7) Be vigilant. Nature has a way of surprising gardeners with an unexpected frost. Once you do transplant your seedlings, be on the alert for temperatures that unexpectedly drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. You can protect your seedlings with a lightweight garden tarp suspended over the plants so it doesn’t crush them, empty and clean glass jars that create a little greenhouse over each seedling,

8) Harvest young plants. Don’t wait until a head of lettuce or a crop of spinach is “full size” before you start enjoying it. One of the benefits of planting seedlings is that they’re pretty tasty when they’re young; in fact, for some plants, the earlier you harvest and eat them the better. If you wait until the weather gets really warm and the greens “bolt” and start to flower, you’ve waited too long.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Get a Head Start on Planning Your Organic Salad Garden

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