For anyone starting a garden at home for the first time, there are many variables to consider. Sun exposure, access to water and soil are three absolute requirments for a successful growing season. It’s true that here in the Pacific NW we can dig in a bit earlier than other areas of the country. Our soil stays fairly temperate due to our mild winters. BUT…….our soil also tends to be pretty soggy. Winter rains saturate the soil, and as a rule of thumb you should not work the soil when it’s wet.
Why? Because wet soil aids in packing particles close together. This condenses the space needed for air and water drainage within the soil – crucial for plants in any garden. You do not want to deal with compacted soil, either. Total drag that takes much much longer to remedy then waiting a week for your soil to dry out.
So, how do you tell if your soil it ‘too’ wet? A learned this handy DIY-trick from my dear farmer-friends at organic Oxbow Farm who grow food on a few acres in the Carnation Valley. Dig down a shovel-lengths deep and grab a handful of soil. Using, your fist, squeeze a portion into a ball and toss that ball in the air letting it fall onto your opened palm. If the soil-ball breaks apart easily your ground is a-ok to work. If it stays clumped together (even a small nucleous) it’s a bit too wet and you’re better off waiting another week or so and checking again. Need a tip for how to speed up drying out your soil? Drop me a line.
Our sweet little garden matching website just scored some national press today – excellent timing to spread the word! Check out this article by Jane Hodges in MidWest Magazine ……..or pick it up in the air!
I received a great email today from a gardener I helped mentor last year. We met for three hours, mapped out her year garden plan and she took off running! Her garden prospered last year, and I’m happy to hear she is ready to dig in for 2010. Here is her question, along with my answer:
My question for you is about the dates on seed packets. Are seeds only good for one year? Should I not be using any of my leftover seeds from last year? My Fedco seeds from last year are specifically stamped “09”. Many of my Seeds of Change seeds from last year have 2010, or even 2011! I’d love to use up these seeds, but wanted to see if “09” seeds were done for….I even have seeds that have a “sell by” date of 12/09. Would they be OK to plant?
PLANT THOSE SEEDS! Certain families of plants have longer seed lifes than others, but definitely plant them and see if they germinate. If nothing sprouts in 2 weeks, they are ‘bad’ seeds. But the odds of that happening are 50-50, so definitely give them a go. I planted seeds from 2007 last year with success.
Also good to note……any left over seeds should be kept in glass jars with lids, sealed and held in a cool dark cupboard. This will extend their life from year to year!
Seed saving is a front runner for one of my most favorite things about gardening and growing food. I love to let plants linger to the point where they produce seed – a complete lifecycle that is fascinating. Typically, I’m forcing fast rotations to maximize food production, however, so I seldom get to enjoy the process first hand. Someday……..when I have gobs of space and I find my very own urban garden share, I will have a seed garden. Dreamy.
Until then, I’ll forever be a groupie to the seed growers of the world. Check out this video of the well-versed Frank Morton – a seed breeder in Oregon and a fellow member of the Organic Seed Growers And Trade Association (OSGATA ).
Seems like everyone is running out to their yards digging up dirt and tossing in seeds. While I fully embrace people gettin’ down n dirty and giving gardening a go this year, it is a bit premature for most crops. Night temps are still a bit cool and when we have crystal clear nights, frost often forms. With that, now is a great time for ordering seeds and mapping out a plan. Don’t go tossing seeds in at random – sit down instead and spend that time mapping out your garden. Here is a resource on what to plant, when . It doesn’t have every edible, but it is a reasonable guide for the basics most people crave.