EEEEEEK!!!!! It is officially time to start planting seeds indoors. It is 12 weeks before my last frost date (May 1st) and so naturally I am super excited to get something going in terms of seedlings. The only thing I am growing that needs started this early is celery and onion. (10 to 12 weeks before last frost date). So, I will begin my little celery and onion plants super excitedly then have to wait 2 weeks for the next batch of seedlings to get planted. (Which is just thyme) Some of you are thinking …. “wow, you find this exciting?? Sounds pretty lame” and some of you are thinking … “OMG YAASSSSSSSS the start of the gardening season, WEEEEEEEE!!” As you can clearly tell, I am of the latter category. AND PROUD! I love gardening and the start of spring is much needed when you are living in a snow globe of 18 degrees. Once we get 6 to 8 weeks out, things get crazy and I get to start all my tomatoes and peppers!
So, what else am I planting this year besides celery and onions? Oh, I am so glad you asked! Added bonus … I just discovered some 2013 garden photos tucked away in the crawlspaces of my computer. 2013 was the first year we moved to our house and had these raised beds. So, I will add those pictures in here to mix it up from seeing last years photos again!
Well, as a refresher, incase you forgot from last year, I have two 3 by 5 foot raised beds in my backyard. I also plant a lot of containers on my deck because this time of year I get way too excited and start way too many seeds. Oh well! I plant using square foot gardening principles, which I highly recommend. If you are interested, here is a link to the book that I use. It isn’t that expensive and in my opinion, totally worth every penny.
So, in keeping with my square foot model … I have 30 squares to work with (15 in each bed). One of my garden beds has a trellis on 2 edges, the other does not. The best thing about square foot gardening is that some things you can plant more than 1 per square. Like carrots are 16 a square! That is awesome! Also, if you utilize vertical gardening techniques, you can plant things like cucumbers, that normally trail all over and take up a ton of space, in one square and they will grow up a trellis with NO problem. Trellises will be your best friend! (this is my garden bed currently…clearly ready to be planted!!!)
So … starting with Bed 1 (non trellis bed) I broke it down by rows, each bed has 3 rows (5 squares each)
Back row: 1 tomato, 16 pole beans, 8 corn plants
note- Apparently you can plant 8 pole bean plants per square… sounds crazy, I know. But, that is what I read. So, we will give it a try. I am also planting 8 corn plants this year (4 per square). I’ve never planted corn. I told the ladies at my work I was going to try some and they told me it was a waste of time because it takes up too much space for the reward. Well, too late, already had the seeds being mailed to the house. So, we will see. Not really sure what I should expect! But, at the very least, I will have some free corn stalks for fall decorating! I also had a random leftover square, so I threw in an extra tomato in this bed, probably whatever looks best after seed starting. I am sucky at crop rotation (because of the trellis being permanently attached to the second bed) so I figure, I will throw one tomato in this bed and see what happens. It should be pretty happy with some nutrients the other soil will be lacking.
Second row: Peppers! 2 king of the north, 2 shishito, 2 corno di toro, 1 jalapeño
note- there are 7 peppers listed here, I stray for the 1 pepper per square foot here. My peppers do fine in closer company and generally seem to grow better. I stagger them in the row in a zig zag pattern and have had no problems squeezing in a few extra plants. I try to pick a few new varieties of peppers every year to keep things fun. This year, I am trying shishito and corno di toro per Matt’s request. We always both look through the seed catalogs and those were his pepper favorites.
Third row: 8 basil, 2 hungarian peppers, 2 poblano peppers
note- after trying to grow basil in containers for years … I accidentally planted what I thought was spinach in the garden bed last year. And basil in containers, per usual. Well, when I picked my BEAUTIFUL spinach plants to make a delicious salad one day, it was blatantly obvious that I somehow can’t read and planted basil in both containers and the garden bed. AKA- planted no spinach. Spinach and basil are basically spelled the exact same, right? But anyways, the basil in the ground was about 5 times bigger than what was in my containers and kept growing right through summer without issue. SO this year, I am planting basil in the ground … on PURPOSE.
First row (along back trellis): all tomatoes: 2 pruden purple, 2 paste, 1 cherry tomato
note- I threw the cherry tomato on the end of the garden bed (also on the eastern most portion) because last year that guy did NOT play nice and took over EVERYTHING. Of like 10 squares in this bed, all you saw were cherry tomatoes. I mean, they were delicious don’t get me wrong. But I would’ve been okay with a few less cherries and a few more beefsteaks! And, I was convinced I must’ve planted multiple cherry tomatoes, NOPE. Under close inspection, there was only 1 behemoth cherry tomato making beast. Oh well, my neighbors quite enjoyed the surplus! And I am still digging them out of the freezer to throw into pastas and quinoa bakes.
Other than that whole issue, I try to plan 1 beefsteak variety (pruden purple), 1 paste/roma variety, and 1 cherry tomato variety each year. They each serve different functions in the kitchen, so it is nice to consider the final size of your tomatoes when picking varieties.
Second row: 1 paste tomato, 18 spinach, 8 celery
Note- My paste tomato will be along the trellis in my garden bed on the western side of the yard. This will create some shade as the paste tomato grows for the rest of the row. Therefore, I chose plants that, in the hottest portion of summer, really benefit from a little bit of shade. Spinach is more of a cool weather crop, as is celery. They will both probably be put out in the garden bed slightly earlier than the tomato gets planted because they can tolerate cooler temps. As the paste tomato grows throughout the summer, and the temp rises and sun gets hotter, the spinach and celery will be so happy to have a little shade. This will hopefully allow them to continue to produce longer into the season, where spinach is normally quick to bolt (go to seed) when it gets too hot. Another just random tidbit here is that with celery… you don’t have to wait for the whole bunch to grow and cut it off at the bottom and get the stalk like you are used to at the grocery store. I mean, you can use it as a one and done plant like that. But, I prefer the cut and come again method. Anytime I was cooking and needed celery, I hopped out into the yard, cut off the 1 or 2 stalks that I needed, and left the rest of the plant. What then happened was that the celery plant continued to produce stalks all summer. It was awesome!!!!
Third row: 2 cucumbers (trellised), 32 carrots, 32 onions
say what? 32 and 32 are you insane!? Heck no! (well, maybe … but not in this instance!!) Carrots and onions both grow very well in close quarters with their friends. Ill be honest, I generally just sprinkle the seeds all over the squares and don’t really count. Have you ever seed carrot and celery seeds? It is impossible to count out and perfectly measure 32 seeds… just thin them out if there are a few growing in too close of company.
And bam! There you have it! Isn’t that totally exciting! All of that produce from two 3 foot by 5 foot beds. As I’ve said before … you do NOT need a lot of space to grow a lot of food!
So now, I will turn it over to you …
What are you growing this year? Are you starting from seeds or buying the plants in the spring? What is your favorite thing to grow in your backyard garden? Let me know all the details in the comments below! And tag your garden photos all season long with #simplefreshnatural on Facebook and Instagram! I would love to see what you are growing!