Plan where, what, when

The first two weeks in May are the optimum time to sow most vegetables because the soil has warmed up, moisture levels are good, days are longer and the sun’s rays are warmer.

There are several things to keep in mind. Take inventory of the conditions you have to work with and examine the garden’s exposure to the sun.

Are there parts in full sun or shaded for some of the time each day? Is there a lower part that drains more slowly than the rest of the garden? Is there protection from wind? And how much space is available for the garden or can be realistically maintained?

Plants that demand heat and sun such as peppers, squash, tomatoes and corn should be planted in full sun. Generally plants that don’t produce fruits, such as root vegetables and brassicas, will tolerate a bit of shade along with lettuce, spinach and other salad greens.

Root vegetables generally resent wet feet, so plant them on high ground and avoid spots where water collects.

If the garden is exposed to wind, provide plants with protection by planting rows of sunflowers or corn on the windward side of the garden to offer at least some protection.

Always plant rows north-south so that the plants in every row get an opportunity to get the same amount of sun.

Tall plants will shade shorter plants in an east-west configuration.

If lack of space is a concern, use some square foot gardening techniques. Plant some of the vegetables in squares or rectangles instead of in traditional rows. Make the planting beds narrow enough so that you can reach halfway across them to weed and harvest.

Plant double and triple rows of things like onions, radish and even gladioli. Doesn’t every farm gardener include some gladioli?

Lack of space can also be handled by using vertical gardening techniques. Let peas, beans, and cucumbers climb.

If weeds have been a problem, use single rows and heavily mulch the pathways between rows with straw, grass clippings, cardboard or old carpet.

The more ground you leave bare, the more weeding you will have to do.

Don’t forget to leave space for transplants of tomato, pepper, cucumber and squash.

They should not be planted until nighttime temperatures are above 10 C. Also leave space for succession planting.

Have a second planting of peas and beans three weeks later to provide a longer season. Succession planting also works well to provide a steady supply of radish, lettuce and salad fixings.

Plant carrot seed in a 20 centi-metre wide row to prevent crowding.

Plant vegetables such as peppers in square blocks so they are easier to cover in the fall.

  • An unusual plant such as a hibiscus standard, tea rose or bougainvillea
  • Bulbs such as dahlias, Peruvian daffodils, acidanthera or Oriental lilies
  • A fountain or other water feature
  • A pair of good quality pruners
  • A decorative object , such as a gazing ball, trellis, obelisk or stepping stone
  • For the indoor gardener, an orchid or other exotic potted plant
  • A gift certificate to a local garden centre and a ride if transportation is an issue.

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