A few days ago, I was watching the weather report on the evening news as usual. It made me chuckle when they said that March 1 is the “meteorologic spring,” as opposed to the first day of spring on the calendar.
We all know (hopefully) that we can’t plant tender plants outside for a few more weeks. But it did make me realize that it is time to start my seedlings, for when I actually can put something into the ground outside.
There is nothing I enjoy more than browsing a seed catalog. The beautiful photography is so tempting, drawing me in, keeping me entranced. At least for an hour or so. There are however other things to consider before placing that order.
I guess I’ll start with, how much produce do you want? Next fall, do you want to be up to your ears in green beans, zucchini, and tomatoes? Or will a couple of each be plenty to keep you and your family satisfied?
After you decide what and how much you want to produce, you need to consider the days to maturity number listed in the catalog description? Is that number reflecting the days from germination? The days from transplant? Nothing more frustrating than to have a bush full of something that doesn’t have time to ripen! Or flowers that have just barely started blooming when the first frost comes along and kills them dead as a hammer.
You also want to check the growth habit of the variety you want. Do you have room to grow a big vining watermelon? How about tomatoes? On your deck in a decorative pot? Or on a sturdy trellis in the garden? Green beans and cucumbers are another one that have bush forms or vining varieties. Do you want them for pickling or canning or to eat fresh? Do some boast of some particular flavors? Think about where it will fit in your yard or garden.
Another consideration some gardeners need to keep in mind is plant pests or disease. They may need to choose varieties that are either tolerant to, or resistant to those common to the area. You can learn about them from your county extension agent or gardening friends. As you gain more experience, you will learn what particular measures are needed to optimize your garden’s results.
Something that has become more popular in the last few years is gardening to increase your beneficial insect population, or to draw in more hummingbirds. Your plant choices can really make a difference in who “visits” your garden. Fortunately for us, most seed catalogs have symbols that help us select specific plants for the specific beneficial we want to attract.
In general, open flower centers with plenty of nectar and pollen available are preferred. Bees and hummingbirds need to be able to get to that nectar. If you want to continue to have more butterflies, they will need food for their larva too. The larva may not always stay on what ever you grew for them, so be prepared to tolerate some incidental damage on near by plants.
If you decide you want to invite these tiny visitors into your garden, you will need to provide a clean fresh water source for them. Wide shallow containers work best, with a twig or rock or similar item for the visitors to light on while getting their drink. We don’t want to be drowning all of the beneficials that we have worked so hard to attract.
One year, quite by accident, I found a bushel of ladybugs living and reproducing in a patch of lush green bindweed, near a faucet that leaked. It kept the area cool and well watered, making a perfect, if accidental, habitat.
Let the weatherman say what he will, here in the East Mountains, we know the REAL first day of spring is on the first Saturday in April. That’s when we can visit our favorite nursery, see plants that will tolerate our shall we say “changeable” spring conditions, delight in some signs of actual green plants, and start dreaming of what is to come in our own yard or garden?
By the way, the average date of our last freeze is mid-May. Patience is called for. Browse your catalog some more.