February is a great time to start organizing your vegetable garden. As the amount of daylight slowly increases each day, you can begin to consider which veggies you want to plant this season, how many you will have space for, and if you will be starting any from seed. Many seasoned gardeners find that keeping a journal is a helpful way to remember what worked well the year before and what they would like to do differently for next season. You can start by considering three important factors.
Location: The area should be exposed to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Taller plants, such as tomatoes, corn, and trellised plants should be planted on the north side of the garden so that the smaller plants will not be shaded by the taller ones.
Spacing: The size of your garden plot will determine how many plants you are able to grow in that space. Your vegetable plants will need plenty of room above and below ground to grow and mature. Most vegetable plants are sold with tags that will list the spacing requirements. Generally, small plants such as garlic and green onions need about 3-4 inches between plants on all sides. Vegetables such as chard, lettuce, and cabbage need about 6-9 inches between plants. Larger vegetable plants, including tomatoes and peppers, need about two feet of space. Using a trellis is a great way to conserve valuable garden space. Vegetables that can be trellised include peas, beans, cucumbers, small squash, small melons, and eggplants.
Companion Plants: Companion planting is the practice of planting vegetables alongside certain plants that will attract bees and other beneficial insects to the garden while deterring pests. Planting sunflowers near the garden will distract ants and aphids. Whiteflies are a common pest in vegetable gardens, but if you plant one of the stronger scented varieties of marigolds or basil they will repel whiteflies, nematodes, and more. In a similar fashion, chrysanthemums and dahlias will repel root nematodes and other crawlers.
Enjoy the warm weather!
Spring is just around the corner and green thumbs everywhere are getting the itch to get out and dig in the dirt. We can only peruse seed and plant catalogs for so long before the dirt calls our names. What can we do to satisfy the planting craving? We can plant potatoes indoors! This is a great project for the whole family, including those budding gardeners who, by now, are bored with all the usual indoor winter activities. With the exception of the initial cutting of the potato, this is truly a kid-friendly project.
To get started, you’ll need a few simple supplies: a deep pot, some potting soil and, of course, a potato that has begun to sprout.
Cut the potato into sections with one or two eyes (sprouts) each. Make sure each section has enough “meat” with it. The potato will probably be soft, but should not be mushy or rotten. The sprout will use this portion of the potato to feed on until it begins to grow roots.
Fill a deep pot 1/3 full with potting soil; place the potato section atop the soil and cover with three additional inches of soil. Water the potatoes and place them in a warm, sunny area. Soil should be kept at room temperature. The plant will require about 14 hours of sunlight daily so, if you don’t have enough natural light, florescent lighting is a great supplement to natural light. Keep the moisture level consistent. It is possible for a potted potato to suffer from drought which will yield a lumpy spud with a strange texture when cooked.
When the plant is six inches tall, add 2-3 inches of soil. Continue to add soil as the plant grows until the soil level is about 3 inches from the top of the pot.
Once the plants have flowered, the greenery will begin to turn yellow and die back. Stop watering at this point to allow the potatoes to mature. Overwatering at this stage can make the potato mushy.
'Baby' potatoes may be harvested 2-3 weeks after the plant flowers. For larger potatoes, wait 2-3 weeks after the tops of the plants have died back. Using your hands, a small shovel, or a large spoon, carefully turn the tubers up from the dirt. “New” potatoes may be washed and eaten immediately. If you plan to store your potatoes, spread them out, unwashed, across the top of the soil for 2-3 days to allow the skins to thicken.
You should plan on two to three months from planting to harvest so your potatoes may not be ready for Easter but should be a hit for Memorial Day. We’d love to see pictures of your DIY spud projects so please send them in.
Tobias and Rachael