March 2013
Home Grown Tomatoes

Are You Ready For Spring?


Looks like I’ll be testing a bunch of new organic veggie and flower varieties from Renee’s Garden.

With only a couple of weeks left in winter, I thought I would spend a little time talking about planting your seeds and plants into your vegetable gardens.

If you are like I am, you have been composting organic materials and yard waste since the end of last summer. That is usually the cut-off time of the season for me when I stop amending the soil in the flower and vegetable beds with compost. Then I have from early September until now to get more compost ready to add to the planting beds early in the season.

Prepare your planting beds by adding compost and a slow-release fertilizer to the top and then turn into the soil. If you are creating an onion bed, add equal parts compost and sand. Onions, especially bunching onions or scallions, prefer well-drained, sandy soil.

The temperatures have not been terribly cold, but let’s follow the guidelines on direct sowing seed outdoors. The average last frost date is still ahead of us and some seeds would just sit in the soil and rot before the temperatures got warm enough to sustain growth.


Clockwise from top left, these onions were sprouted indoors to test their viability. Now they’re going to the garden.Open garlic bulbs and plant garlic cloves about 6 inches apart. Leave the pointed end pointed up and exposed, but cover the rest with sandy soil. This is where the gourds and such will be planted. Watch for the transformation.

We can, however, directly sow seed for lettuce, mustard, pak choi, spinach and other brassicas. Still, some cool-weather plants are easiest to cultivate when started from young transplants. Those plants include chard, kale, cabbage, collards, broccoli and turnips.

Direct sow allium (onions, garlic, leeks, chives, etc.) seed now. Onion and garlic sets should also be planted.

Carrots, dill, coriander (cilantro) and parsley may be sown. For the coriander, plant some seed now and then plant more every two to three weeks in order to have fresh leaves throughout the season.

“Building Soils Naturally – Innovative Methods for Organic Gardening” by Phil Nauta. It’s not as difficult as you might think and this book makes it even simpler.


I discovered, last year, carrots grow well in large containers. Several 30-gallon pots filled with a well-drained growing medium produced enough carrots for my family and some extras for sharing with neighbors and friends as well.

Bunching onions perform well in large containers, too.

Plant your potatoes. Use seed potatoes for the best results. Cut the seed potatoes about 1 ½- to 2-inch cubes. Make sure at least one eye is on each seed piece. Dig a trench in your cultivated, amended soil about 3 ½- to 4 ½-inches deep. Cover the seed pieces with an inch or two of soil. When plants are 6- to 8-inches tall, begin to mound soil around the bases of the plants to start forming a hill. When the plants are about 15- to 18-inches tall, the hill should be around 5- to 6-inches tall.

Start your basil seed indoors. Thyme, summer savory and mint seed are also ready to start indoors.

If you have tomato plants already started and at least 6-inches tall, then you can plant them in the garden. However, you must shield them from the cold nights until the danger of frost has passed. Cover each plant with a Wall OWater Season Extender. You can also protect the plants with gallon milk jugs or two-liter soda bottles prepared by cutting off the bottom. Note, if the temperature drops below about 25 degrees, additional protection may be needed to keep the plants from getting cold burned. Additionally, if the daytime temp rises above about 80 degrees, the bottle covers may need to be removed during the day.

I started reading a book last week and I can’t seem to put it down. It is called "Building Soils Naturally – Innovative Methods for Organic Gardeners" by Phil Nauta. Although I haven’t finished it, I believe I am going to have to recommend this title for anyone who really wants to create their own soils without using peat or coir as a base. Even if you don’t want to take the plunge into the deep end of the organic pool, there is information in this book you need to know. So, get the book now or wait until I finish it and I’ll give you a proper review.

Finally, this month, I started my gourd, squash and cucurbit garden. I have never attempted to grow them in this manner, so this could be interesting. From now until the end of the season, I will post a picture and tell about the progress of the project. Pass or fail, I will report all of the information. This is the beginning of the series, so bear with me. The first picture had to be taken early in February, before I completely prepared the whole area.

Month one: The gourd garden. Let the fun begin!

If you have any questions or comments regarding things discussed in this column, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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