• rebeccaecarpenter

What’s Happening in the Garden: Second Spring Planting

We put our early season crops into the ground last month, and they’re coming along beautifully.  We’ve been eating our spinach and lettuces already, and enjoying some cold-hardy herbs (rosemary and thyme).

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Our early season crops in the Lilac Bed — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, and several varieties of lettuce, plus the mystery vine.

So now it’s time for our second planting.  As I discussed in a previous post, different crops thrive in different climates, so it’s good to plan out your planting schedule according to their needs.  I’m planning four plantings this season, which should take us well into autumn and hopefully through early winter.

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Barbara Kingsolver’s fictional “Vegetannual” shows the seasonality of different crops.  We’re harvesting our May/June crops now, and are planting our July/August crops.

Our first planting included cool climate crops — a variety of leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, some hardy herbs, and a few other plants.  Now we’re on to the next crops of the season, which will fill our garden and our kitchen through the peak of summer.  These are the veggies you think of when you think of summer — tomatoes, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, melons, squash, zucchini, a variety of herbs, and more.  I’m planting both seeds and seedlings, which I’ve purchased from Greenstreet Gardens in Alexandria, DeBaggio’s Herbs in Chantilly, and Merrifield Gardens in Merrifield. While our early season crops grow in our Lilac Bed (named for the fragrant lilac bush that shares their space), the second planting of crops will go into our raised bed.  You may recall that we built our raised bed last month, which was an incredibly worthwhile undertaking.   I look at the 2,000 pounds of soft, nutrient-rich soil just waiting for plants, and I am like a kid on Christmas Eve.   For the past eight years I’ve been planting our veggies in the ground, which in Virginia means a lot of back-breaking work to churn through rocks and clay.  It has been a labor of love, but this year I decided I’d had enough of the tough love, and we raised our bed above ground.

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As I begin to put the plants into the raised bed, I realize I don’t need a trowel to dig holes — I can just push the soil aside with my fingers. I don’t even break a sweat, so those must be tears of joy that are dripping down my cheeks.

I’ve used a great tool to lay out my garden plan this season — it’s called the Mother Earth News Garden Planner.  Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to know where to begin, so this tool makes it really simple.  You just type in the dimensions of your bed, click on the veggies you want to plant, and drag and drop them into the space.  The Planner tells you how much room they’ll need, so you can see how many of each crop to plant.   Here’s a sample of what a garden plan might look like:

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A sample garden layout from Mother Earth News’ garden planning tool.  The smart icons (which automatically fill the space the plant will need) make it really easy to lay out your garden

The tool also automatically creates a planting schedule based on what crops you choose.  So it lets you know, based on your location, when you should sow, plant and harvest each crop.  And it includes a planting guide for each crop, with plant-care details and growing tips.

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A sample planting schedule from Mother Earth News.  Your list is customized to your location, so you know exactly when and how to sow, plant and harvest your veggies.

(Given how I’m gushing over the usefulness of this garden planning tool, I should mention that I’m not a paid endorser of Mother Earth News — but perhaps I should be, since I’m probably one of their biggest evangelizers!  I just really appreciate good and useful tools when I find them, and I think everyone should benefit when we find something so handy.)

Ok, back to the garden.  Because our garden is in an urban area (i.e., we can’t spread out over acres of ground), I’m employing some basic urban agriculture techniques — vertical gardening and intensive gardening — which will help me maximize our space.  So I plan my garden accordingly, carefully choosing the right spot for each plant.  I’ve built some simple trellises along our garden fence, so my vining plants (cucumbers, melons) will grow up along the trellis.  Tall plants (tomatoes, peppers) will go in the back, bushy plants (squash, zucchini) in the middle, and low plants (carrots, onions) along the front.

Now it’s time to put the plants and seeds into the ground.  Since the soil is fresh and soft, I don’t need any tools — just my hands.  I drop seeds and cover them lightly, and gently tuck seedlings into small holes.  Because I’m using an intensive gardening strategy — which means I’m aiming to grow as much produce in as little space as possible — I plant the crops close together, while leaving just enough room for them to grow.  I will thin the sprouts in a few weeks, to create more space where needed.

From seed I’m planting:

  1. Okra (Clemson Spineless)

  2. Edamame (Envy)

  3. Cucumbers (Straight Eight)

  4. Cantaloupe (Tasty Bites)

  5. Peppers (Sweet Cherry blend, and Yolo Wonder)

  6. Squash (Cube of Butter)

  7. Zucchini (Black Beauty)

  8. Onions (Sweet White)

  9. Carrots (Dragon)

And I’m planting a few seedlings:

  1. Tomatoes (Sunsugar, Better Boy, Juliette, plus a mystery variety that I can’t remember)

  2. Peppers (Roumanian Rainbow)

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Newly planted Roumanian Rainbow Pepper.

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Seeds and seedlings are in the raised bed, and covered with netting to prevent any scavengers from pilfering our sprouts.

Once I’ve got all the seeds and plants into the ground (which took only about 45 minutes — I am in love with our raised bed and its soft soil), I cover it with netting to protect the seeds from our local wildlife, and then I give it a good soaking.  And we’re done!  Second planting is complete, and now we wait and watch for sprouts.

(Here’s a sneak peak of the first sprout — you can see the seed casing still attached as the edamame plants emerge.  A few more weeks and there will be lots more like this)…

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Emerging Edamame sprouts, fresh out of their seed casings.

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