You plan for a wedding, you plan for retirement, and you plan for a trip to Hawaii. Do you make plans for your garden?
Do you want summer flowers, spring bulbs and winter fragrance, or something to eat? Many of us will buy 20 packets of seeds and have no idea when or where to sow them, or how to maintain them. We need a plan!
Just as you plan for other aspects of your life, a bit of research and planning a garden helps the outcome. If you are new to gardening this is even more important. If you become an avid gardener, this will be a lifetime love. You can learn as you go along, but the more you research up front, the fewer mistakes you make. Mistakes cost money, headaches and discouragement. Blunders are bound to happen, and we all learn as we go. However, the more we plan, the less need for headache medicine in our future.
Plan time for maintenance! Inside the home, most people don’t buy furniture, arrange it on the floor, and then forget about it. You must clean, dust, and maintain the room. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden. Gardens take time. You research, plan, plant, maintain and harvest a garden for optimum results.
How much time are you willing to devote to weeding, mulching, watering, pruning and planting your garden? If you only have a few hours a week to give, a container garden may be what you need. With the knowledge that during hot spells the container may need daily watering. If you have eight hours a day you want to dedicate to a garden, then plan a large scale garden.
Start small and build your garden in stages as you learn how much time it takes to maintain it, you can stop creating more garden spaces when you reach the limit of how much time you are willing to give.
You can save yourself some time by hiring outside help for jobs such as pruning or weeding. Mulching saves time in weeding as mulch helps suppress weeds. If you want a large group of containers on your deck but don’t have time to water every day once the heat settles in, you can put in a drip system on a timer.
Once you have a plan for an edible garden, late winter to early spring is the time to start planting your greens. Kale, lettuce, spinach, chard, endive and more, April is all about the greens. There is still time to plant your peas too!
Here’s where planning helps. Buy floating row covers and have them ready. When you plant your peas cover the bed or row with them. The covers can help with late frosts, however, they hide the tender seedlings from the crows, who love to pull them up when they sprout. Keep the covers in place until the seedlings are rooted enough or big enough the crows are no longer interested in them.
Row covers also protect your spinach from leaf miners that tunnel into the leaf and leave your leaves unappetizing.
Have your pea stakes ready for your peas. Buy enation-virus free pea seeds if you sow them in April. Cultivars that are enation-resistant varieties are Oregon Trail, Oregon Pioneer, Maestro, Oregon Giant, Oregon Sugar Pod II and Cascadia. Next year plan to start your peas in February for earlier crops and less chance for the enation virus disease killing your plants when the weather warms.
This is the month to go on slug patrols. Early morning or just after sundown you will catch the pesky mollusks floating on their slime in search of your treasured plants. Have a bucket of sudsy water with you. Pick up the mollusks with your hands and drop them into the water, or use gloves if you are squeamish. If you pick slugs up from their sides with your bare hands you avoid the slimy mucous. The slime is on the bottom of these creatures. Snails are easier to handle since you can pick them up by their shells.
It takes a few times to get over being squeamish when you hand pick slugs. You can always move them, by tossing them into the woods, but they always find their way back to your garden. If you find our native banana slug in your garden, leave them be. They eat rotted debris. Save the open hunting season for the non-native slugs who devour your precious plants.
Later this fall, prepare new beds for the following spring. When the growing season begins next year, you are planned, prepared and ready to garden.
— Debbie Teashon photographs and writes about gardening in the maritime Pacific Northwest. She is co-author of “Gardening for the Homebrewer: Grow and Process Plants for Making Beer, Wine, Gruit, Cider, Perry and More.” She also is editor and webmaster of Rainy Side Gardeners. Contact her at debbie firstname.lastname@example.org.