Saturday, April 21, 2012

#EarthDay - Growing Green: Get your garden ready for spring

Start your Garden this Earth Day Weekend!
The recent warm spell across the country has prompted many to start thinking towards summer gardens and itching to start spring planting.  The most important requirements for starting an organic garden are fertile soil, quality organic seeds, proper timing and adequate temperatures, sunlight and water.

Soil: An great eco-friendly alternative to peat moss for planting and potting soil is a coconut fiber growing media.  Traditionally used peat moss is extracted from peat bogs that take thousands of years to form and years to recover and therefore is not a renewable resource. Coconut fiber is a renewable resource, made from the husks of coconut and is very suitable as a soil additive to increase aeration and water retention. It is also light weight so it is perfect for roof gardens and large containers.  I found this great product on Amazon called CocoFiber - it is a dehydrated coconut fiber brick that when placed in a bucket with water expands to fill the bucket.  Since I have a totally containerized garden, I used it recently to amend my potting soil to improve aeration and water retention.  It also makes a great mulch! Check it out:

Coco Garden cocofiber is a completely renewable resource made from 100-Percent natural recycled fibers of the coconut husk. Cocofiber's micro sponge effect dramatically increases the water retention of soil and improves aeration, ensuring optimal root growth and maximum water and nutrient uptake for lawn grasses and container and garden plants. Cocofiber is excellent for use as a seed starter, planting seedlings and transferring plants. Can be added to dry soil conditions to improve water retention and also for soils high in clay to improve aeration and root growth. Coco Garden compresses its cocofiber into a convenient light weight package that expands several times its size when placed in water. When compared to conventional potting mixes compressed cocofiber lasts longer, requires significantly less packaging material and has a lower shipping weight and volume which greatly reduces its impact on the planet.

Seeds:  Choose organic seeds as they were produced without the use of chemicals.  My favorite organic seed companies are Botanical Interests and Burpee (who sell both traditional and organic).  Since I plant only in containers (since I do not have a yard), I really like the Botanical Interests Container Garden Collection.  This collection is a lot cheaper than buying individual packets and have enough variety to grow a vibrant garden in a small area!  This makes a great gift as well (Mother's Day, maybe?!). The seeds are all veggies, herbs and flowers that will do well in shallower growing conditions or containers - Lettuce, Cilantro, Basil, Chives, Radish, Carrots, and Peppers.

Burpee has a wonderful selection as well and you can purchase both seeds and ready to plant established root stock (and they will ship at the correct time for planting in your zone).   http://www.burpee.com/organic-gardening/

If you want to get started early outdoors, start with cold hardy plants like radishes, peas, lettuce, broccoli, beets, spinach, parsely and other leafy greens.

Timing and temperature:
Certain plants require a minimum temperature for seeds to sprout and some plants are killed by frost and freezing.  The best way to find out approximate dates for planting outdoors is to first consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Map, which was just updated earlier this year.  The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature.
Next, based on the hardiness zone you live in, determine what plants you can start outdoors and which ones you should start indoors.  One of my favorite resources for listing what do in your garden when, broken down by zone, is Organic Gardening's Gardener's To-Do-List - http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/gardeners-april-to-do-list.  Sign up for their mailing list and you will get a monthly update on what garden tasks you should do that month.

Whether you start your seeds indoors or out, keeping your seeds moist until sprouting is important.  I usually mist my indoor seeds/sprouts with a squirt bottle every couple of days or when the soil is dry.  The same thing should be done outdoors with a garden hose if it hasn't rained enough - but water gently so you don't disturb the fragile sprouts.

So for Earth Day this year, do something good for the earth and good for you by planting or getting seeds started. If you need supplies, check out Amazon's great selection of garden equipment and Earth Day Specials:

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