There is really no way to describe the incredible feeling that a new gardening season brings.

It wont be long until we can enjoy fresh sugar snap peas from the garden!
It wont be long until we can enjoy fresh sugar snap peas from the garden!

Just the thought of those first seeds going into the ground – or the taste of just-plucked fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers from the garden can put a smile on the grumpiest of the grumpy.

It’s hard to believe we are just a few weeks away from putting those first spring crops of sugar snap peas, radishes, lettuce and kale into the ground.

As exciting as that is – it also means we have much to do to get ready for it all!

Now is the time to review the garden plan one last time to make sure we have everything ready.
Now is the time to review the garden plan one last time to make   sure everything is ready.

Once the season hits – there just never seems to be enough time  – so we have learned that a little preparation now can make all the difference between a well orchestrated garden oasis – or total chaos.

For us, that means going over the garden plan (see 2014 Garden Plan) one final time to make sure everything we need is ready to go.  So we spent yesterday checking seeds, making new tomato supports and cleaning up the barn.

Creating New Tomato and Pepper Supports For The Garden:

stake
Our newly made stake a cages. 60″ stakes with an 18″ grid of welded wire and a pencil point to drive in the ground easily.

We have used our home-made Stake-A-Cages for three years now, and I can honestly say they have been one of the workhorses of our garden – keeping our plants healthy and organized.(see: How to make a Stake-A- Cage) It is such a simple concept – but it really keeps our tomatoes and peppers supported through the summer months, and lets us harvest our crop with ease.

With that said – it was time to fix a few of the early ones, and build a few more for the added plants that will go in this year.

When we first made them 3 years back – we used some left over pine for the stakes.  It worked well, although a few of the stakes now need replacing from the wear of 3 gardening seasons.

The sharp pencil points of the survey stakes will make it easy to drive into the ground
The sharp pencil points of the survey stakes will make it easy to drive into the ground

For this batch – we were able to get an amazing deal on some 1.5″ x 1.5″ x 60″ hardwood survey stakes that have a pre-sharpened pencil point – making driving into the soil a breeze.  We then attached 18″ x 48″ welded-wire fencing to each post with a few 1″ staples from the staple gun, and in a little less than an hour – we made 50 new stake-a-cages for the garden.

The stakes ran us about $1.40 each, and we picked up a 100′ roll of the wire for about $55. At a total cost of less than $2 to make each support – it’s a bargain – especially since the hardwood stakes will last much longer than the pine.  We even added a quick OWG stencil to each post to give it a little more garden flair. 🙂

Seed Starting:

Nothing says Spring like seeds popping up through the soil!
Nothing says Spring like seeds popping up through the soil!

This is also the time to make sure all of the seeds are started in time for the coming months. The first of our plants – the ornamental peppers, were seeded a few weeks back.  They have a long germination time so we needed to get them started first. They are now up and on there way under the lights on the homemade growing stand.  (see: Starting Seeds Indoors)

Starting today – all of our heirloom tomato and hot, sweet and green pepper seeds will get planted – giving them a full 8 weeks to become established before putting them into the ground around May 15th.  They usually pop up within 7 days of going into the seed trays, unlike the ornamental peppers that can take almost 21 days.

Labeling is the key to keeping it all straight!
Labeling is the key to keeping it all straight!

No matter what we plant – we always place two seeds in every pod to ensure a full tray of seedlings.  If we get enough doubles to come up – we just transplant into an additional flat to have a few extra on hand for family and friends.  One thing I can definitely say we learned is the power of labeling every container and flat. It seems so easy to remember what you have planted in the beginning.  But when our home-made growing stand is full – we have close to 600 plants up at once – and by May – they all begin to look the same.  The labels are a lifesaver to make sure we are planting tomatoes where tomatoes go!  (see: Making an Indoor Seed-Starting Stand)

Preparing The Garden – Green Manure Cover Crops

The bright green texture of 4 week old annual rye - a great green manure crop
The bright green texture of 4 week old annual rye – a great green manure crop

Normally at this point we will begin to turn a few of the raised rows fall cover crops back into the soil to get ready to plant the early spring crops in about a week. But this year’s late and heavy snows have left them still on the wet side. Hopefully we can dry out this week and get the soil turned and planted in the next two weeks.

For the rows that will not have spring crops planted – we will turn as soon as time allows and plant a quick “green manure” crop of annual rye.  It really helps to build a little more nutrients into the soil before mid-May’s big vegetable planting. (See: Planting Green Manure Crops)

With that said – it’s time to get back to those seed trays and get them planted!  Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

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8 thoughts on “Preparing For Gardening Season – A Little Work Now Pays Off Later!

  • February 23, 2016 at 3:38 pm
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    You said in a past article to plant a cover crop of rye in the fall. Can you plant this in the spring and get any benefit?

  • March 10, 2014 at 8:04 pm
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    I want to plant veggies in straw bales but I can’t remember the details. How can I find this again?

  • March 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm
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    Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh!!! I can’t wait to see your garden posts this year! After the long winter y’all have had up north, it must be such a welcome sight to turn the calender to spring.
    This weekend was the first time I’ve had enough sugar snaps to share with a friend. Love that! Happy sowing!

  • March 9, 2014 at 3:40 pm
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    This is a great share … seeds are a great way to grow and save money!

  • March 9, 2014 at 11:33 am
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    Easy for you!! LOL You’re half my age! I’ll have to get my son to help me! 🙂

  • March 9, 2014 at 11:18 am
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    So if you don’t till the rows, how do you “turn” the green crop back into the ground? With a shovel or garden fork?

    • March 9, 2014 at 11:27 am
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      Yep – We just turn them quickly with a shovel – it usually takes about 10 minutes a row – and each year becomes a little easier as the soil improves.

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