Planting your garden!

Whether you start planting in March or June, consider these points before you begin and plant for success:

Soil temperature – important to all veggies
Seed Age – there is a loss of germination rate for last year’s seeds
Seed Depth – important – too deep or too shallow yield a disappointing germination rate
Moisture Requirement for various seeds by size
Days to Germination and requirements for germination

Install your soaker system – installing it before you plant assures adequate water to the root area. Planting across the “watering line” created by your soaker system is not recommended. Water will not wick to the area between your soaker hose lines. Very important – attend the class on setting up your water system.

When planting seeds, one of the primary reasons for failure is the absence of the required moisture that is necessary for germination. Tiny seeds such as lettuce, carrots, parsnips, radishes and chard need consistently moist soil to germinate. That does not mean soggy soil. If tiny seeds begin to sprout and the soil dries out the seedling dies and you will have to replant. Time loss for the growing season may be as much as 7 to 10 days.

Keeping tiny seeds moist may mean hand watering daily until the seeds germinate. Frost cloth, floating rows covers, sheets, weighted down newspaper, cardboard, wood boards and clear plastic have been used successfully to help retain moisture in soil. Heavy covers, cardboard and wood should be checked daily when seeds are expected to sprout. Plastic should be removed before the sun heats up under the plastic and burns your tender seedlings.

Larger seeds, such as green beans are easier to keep moist, but care should be taken to plant these vegetables when the soil temperature is around 50 degrees. Moist but not soggy soil will aide in successful germination. Beans planted too early in cool and soggy soil will rot – another reason to note when to expect germination. Just because we are enjoying the warm day time temperatures does not necessarily mean the soil is at the proper temperature for planting or growing. A soil thermometer may help you determine if the soil is at the correct temperature for planting seeds or transplanting.


planting a tomato plantPlanting your garden with transplants gives immediate satisfaction. It looks like a garden! Preparing your soil before you begin planting your first spring or summer vegetable gives the soil time to settle-in and be ready to provide the nutrients necessary for good strong growth. If possible, prepare two months before you plant your summer garden or for a spring garden – fall is a good time to add amendments to prepare your garden for the next year.

Fertilizing your new transplants may be something to consider. Granular, liquid or compost may be added to the soil at planting time. If you use a “totem” to keep track of important facts you may want to record the next date to fertilize your transplants. Use only Organic products if you decide to fertilize your garden. Refer to the list of approved products in Gardening 101.

If you purchased your plants from the nursery remember they may have just arrived from a warmer climate. Take the time to “harden-off” the plants before exposing them to our cool days, spring winds, and chilly nights.


Cool conditions are appropriate for cool season crops but if you are pushing the season and planting tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers when the temperatures are still chilly,  be aware of the needs of these traditional summer vegetables – warm days, warm nights and warm soil. Hardening off is a process of exposing the tender plant to the outside world for a few hours each day and bringing them in at night for a few days or even a week will them adjust to the climate at the garden.  See Gardening 101 for more information.

Cool season crops – prefer cool daytime temperatures.

Soil should be moist but not soggy.

Seeds germinate slower and grow slower during the cooler days of spring and fall. They may be frost tender or improved by a light frost

Fertilizer requirements may be lower than for summer crops

Harvesting before the hot summer temperatures is advisable. Hot temperatures trigger bolting and seed production in many cool season vegetables especially lettuce and radishes.

Summer season crops are growing geniuses. From planting in mid-May to harvesting in late August or September they do a remarkable job of growing, producing delicious food for our enjoyment, for canning, drying or freezing for the winter months – all in less than 120 days!

Summer crops require warm soil, tomatoes planted in cool soil, in cool weather, will often just “sit there” waiting for the correct combination of warm days and warm soil. Cucumbers and green beans may rot in cool, soggy soil. Planting summer vegetables too early in our garden exposes the tender crops of summer to frost, cool winds and chilly nights. If you plant early be prepared to provide covers, possibly walls-of-water or other methods that may help create a warmer “micro climate” for the fun loving crops of summer.

Germination for summer veggies is fast and growth is amazing.

If you plant early watch the weather and provide protection. Our garden may be a much as 10 degrees colder than the weather forecaster predicts.

We have a very windy garden most of the growing season. There are spring winds and summer monsoon winds and rain with the possibility of lightning or hail. And we still have beautiful productive gardens!

New transplants may be a candidate for a fungal disease called damping-off. Often thought of with new seedlings in a greenhouse, it may also affect older transplants. More information may be found in Gardening 101 – Diseases.

COVERS – a reason in every season

APR beautiful vegggies under frost cloth ABCovers for these new plants are recommended. For the cool crops, covers offer the advantage of early insect protection. Cabbage and other Cole crops are very susceptible to Aphids. These tiny, sucking, insects may overwinter in our mild winter climate in garden debris from last season or crops growing in a winter garden under cover, and generally anywhere they hide to survive. Covering your crop may help deter these and other insects but anytime you use a cover it is wise to peek under it frequently to assess growth progress and to see if anything else is happening – like bugs.

Covers also have a purpose for summer vegetables. They offer the same insect protection as for the Cole crops but also, in the case of tomatoes minimize the APR Mike and Mark build cover PCGtransfer, by the dreaded 1/16″ long Beet Leaf Hopper, of Curly Top disease. It has been observed in the garden that those who covered their tomato plants, from the initial day of planting with Tulle, lost fewer plants or none at all to the disease. Covers may include: beautiful lace curtains (pink was pretty), curtain sheers, tulle in your choice of colors, floating row covers and window screen (dull but effective). In the case of tomatoes you do not need to remove the covers. only adjustment for width and height growth is needed. For tomato plants which are pollinated by wind, regular shaking of the cover produced an abundant crop of tomatoes. Even for cucumbers the bees simply flew under the covers to pollinate the flowers.

LABEL IT or forget it

It is highly recommended that, as you plant your vegetables, you label them carefully. It is better to do it at planting than try to remember it later. A successful plant for you this year may be something you would like to plant next year. Another reason for labeling is, if disease or bugs attack your plants, it is helpful to the staff to know what plant they are looking at. Tomatoes for instance, do not all look exactly alike, and knowing whether the lighter lime green tomato plant they are looking at is an Early Girl or a darker green Beefsteak will give the team a clue as to whether the light color is true to that tomato strain and not the first signs of disease.

Design your labels so when your plant is 4’ tall and 3’ wide you can find its label. Little label tags found in a 6-pac are soon lost under a plant or buried in the soil never to be see again.

INSTALL CAGES, trellises or fencing

Planting is the time to install cages, trellises or fencing before your plants get so big that you damage them while trying to install those items. Some gardeners like to install their supports even before they plant, eliminating the danger of stepping on a seed row or “smushing” tender plant. Remember that all trellis type structures must be securely “planted” in the ground to avoid plant or fruit loss from winds and heavy veggie production as the season progresses. Trellises have the added benefit of having your produce at the perfect height for picking at harvest time.


Every garden is different and it is important to “know your garden” and provide for its needs.

Fruit in the summer garden ripens quickly! Checking your garden daily is essential. Frequent picking of beans and cucumbers for instance encourages the plant to produce more. Veggies left on a plant long enough for them to reach maturity signal the plant to slow down production since it has reached its goal of producing seeds for next year.

Harvesting fruit in the prime of its season results in produce that is at its nutritious peak! Donations to the food bank should always be vegetables at their peak!

Plant for success and enjoy your garden.