Monday, February 9, 2009

The 2009 Game Plan

Last year we had just moved into our house in late April so it was too late to start from seed. That and, um, I had to unpack. Being new to the house, I decided to grow everything (basil, rosemary, oregano, 2 types of tomatoes and 2 types of hot peppers) in containers so that I could move them around until I found the best spot. This turned out to be genius because my first guess was really wrong.

What I learned from my 2008 container garden:
  • Know your location. Whether it's a yard or deck, know the sun coverage. You can change just about everything else: the soil fertility, the soil pH, the annual precipitation. You cannot, however, change the sun.
  • Know your USDA Zone. It will let you know what will grow in your area and when, generally, the first and last frost dates are.
  • Container gardens outside require more water than you'd expect.
  • You should really use potting soil/medium and compost from the garden center (I am a big fan of Merrifield Garden Center 'round these parts. I can spend HOURS there) instead of digging up CLAY from your backyard.
  • Slugs are the devil. (A story for another time)
  • You got to constantly harvest basil for it to really grow into a bush. I would wait until there was "enough" to take a good handful for pasta. Bad idea. But proper basil harvesting is for another post...

After not killing my plants last year I gained enough (over) confidence to expand the garden and grow 99% of it from seed. Am I crazy? Naw, just a little over eager and excited to experiment. And easily seduced by the seed catalog. I figure, the seeds are rather cheap so if something doesn't quite work out, no big deal. There's always next year!

Here's what will (hopefully) be going in my garden around Mother's Day 2009 (when Arlington, VA is outta the frost danger zone):

Why did I choose these plants? Some I chose out of love. Like the Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato. I love those ugly little buggers. Some I chose out of usefulness. Like the cayenne peppers that we can dry for future homemade chili powder. And some I chose because they just sounded wicked cool. Like bergamot.

When's this all going to go down (in the ground)? It's easiest to work your way backwards from the planting date. The plants will be transplanted outdoors mid-May. Then, you need to allow for a week of hardening off. And, since most of my seed packets say they take 55ish days to germinate, Sunday March 7th is the day I'll do the deed. All and all, I figure I should start the seeds approx. 2 months before transplanting.

If you haven't yet thought about what you are going to plant next year, now is the time to do that and order seeds if you're going to go that route. Your local nursery or big box garden center will also have seeds. However, I prefer the better variety online and the relative ease Google'ing for the seeds you want versus wandering around the unorganized displays of seeds for 30 minutes.

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