Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Starting a Garden - The EASY Way

As we start having a few warmer days in February and March, it's tempting to get out there and start gardening!  But if you haven't gardened before and starting from scratch seems a bit overwhelming, or if your main garden is just too wet and mucky to start planting, potting up a few containers that you can place in your sunniest, warmest parts of your yard are a quick and easy way to get some veggies going right away.
asian stir fry mix

If you are in an area where some alternating freezes and thaws may still be likely (like here in Zone 7B southwest Tennessee where we go from highs around 70 for several days, to plunges into the 20's and even snow in February and early March), do not use ceramic containers as the freezing and thawing can cause them to crack.  Stick with plastic or resin composite containers for your early spring February plantings.

Radishes, lettuces, swiss chard, and other leafy greens can all be seeded in pots very easily.  Even peas (sugar snaps and snow peas are especially easy and do well here in the midsouth) can be seeded in containers.  Most veggies, such as these mentioned, only need about 8 inches of soil to grow well, so the containers needn't be especially deep.  Good drainage is important, so be sure your container has good drainage holes.  If the container is large and deep, be sure you put a layer of broken crock (maybe you have assorted broken clay pots scattered around the yard where you forgot to empty them and bring them in for the winter, like I do -- don't throw them away, use the pieces for drainage), packing peanuts, or something to create a layer for water to drain through.  I've used inverted small plastic pots in the bottoms of large pots to create a drainage area.

kale and petunias


Germination of the seeds can be speeded by covering the pots with a blanket or piece of plastic to hold in some warmth, but once these plants have germinated they can handle cold temperatures close to freezing.  If below freezing temps are expected, it's easy to throw something over a group of pots to protect them.

With any luck, you will be pulling up some radishes and harvesting some lettuce leaves in about 30 days, followed by some sugar snap peas and other leafy greens about when you are beginning to get your main garden planted.

discarded recycling bin and window boxes in a cold frame


Since our temperatures here in the midsouth rise so quickly in May, it's important to get an early start on the so-called cool season crops.  If you wait to plant them until late March or April they are likely to turn bitter and bolt before they can even be harvested.

notice the fun painted pots - they're plastic!  This is a community/school garden in Seaside, FL
 Growing organic veggies does not have to be a big production!  You can get started almost any time of year with some containers -- any size, seeds or plants, and some bags of good potting mix.

4 comments:

My Garden Diaries said...

You have such useful information! Thanks for sharing your knowledge! It is so good for people to learn from experienced gardeners like yourself...it can change the way people eat and if we all change a little our world will be better for it!!! I am zone 5...think I can throw some radishes in around April???

Diana Schmied said...

Thank you so much for your kind words! I would think you could do radishes around April for zone 5. Do you know when your last frost date is? My seed packet says to sow in the garden 4 to 6 wks before the frost date. If you sow in pots you can push that earlier by several weeks if you can keep the soil temp above 40 degrees.

Manuela@A Cultivated Nest said...

I was so tempted to get out yesterday - it was in the 60's - and start getting my raised beds ready. Then I looked at the weather for today and it said possible flurries and hard freeze of 26 tomorrow! You never know in the South what the day will bring!

Angela Moore said...

Thank you for the guidebook.