On Your Mark…

We have reached mid winter, and there is plenty of snow outside to prove it. The view of our garden from my office window today is stunning all dressed in the white powder we got last night. This has been an interesting season for us on Long Island. We have had our fair share of days with mild temperature, already forgotten by most, framed by bone chilling temperatures brought by the now famous Polar Vortex.

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I admit I am somewhat impulsive.   I usually dedicated a couple of weeks to planning my garden just before tilling and planting, and most of the thinking is done while looking at seedling flats at the garden centers. Nonetheless, 2013 was a great year for us, we had many abundant crops, we met and visited many fellow gardeners, and learned a lot by interacting and sharing with you, the readers of this blog. So for 2014 I decided to do things in a little more organized manner.

Just before it got too cold to work outside comfortably, I started building a few raised beds which I plan to finish  in the spring. The decision to use raised beds this year is just because I want to experiment with square foot gardening. The idea is very interesting and the methodology seem simple and allows me to space production to lengthen the gardening season to suit our needs.

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Nonetheless, I still have about 500 sqft of ground garden space where I plan to grow sweet potatoes, corn, and perhaps some perennial fruit or berry bushes, which I have left mulched and covered with straw. Since I completed that work, I have dedicated some time to thinking what other things I really want to try this year. I have not only decided what plants to grow, but also decided I will be experimenting with vermiculture and more intensive composting as a means to improve our production and crop quality.

As I become more involved with gardening I have come to realize it is not just a late spring and summer thing. Many tasks have to be completed at specific times while it is still cold out, specially if you intend on avoiding buying seedlings at the garden centers. In order to organize myself through the early planting process, I compiled a chart from information available from online garden sites, seed catalogs and gardening books. The chart originally had specific dates when I needed to start seeds, whether indoors or outdoors, or when to bring the seedlings out based on where we live. However, as soon as I had finished it I realized it was of little use to anyone outside our county, so I modified it so it can be used by anyone in a temperate area as long as you know the expected date of last freeze-frost in your particular area. My current Spring Planting Guide can be viewed by clicking the bold links.

The guide designates the week after date of last frost, which is when I would put most veggies in the ground in most areas, as Week 0 (zero). The weeks leading to Week 0 are designated increasingly from Week -12 through Week -1. Subsequently, the weeks after Week 0 are also designated increasingly from Week 1 onwards.

By studying this guide and knowing the last freeze date in your particular area (there are many sites that give you this information, but I found this one to be on target for the US http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/ ), anyone can plug in the information in a calendar to display specific week or date by when to start seeds indoors or outdoors, or by when to transfer seedlings to the garden.

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Since I am working this year with the square foot garden method, my guide also included suggested density per square foot section, whether a trellis or cage support is needed, as well as some other useful reminders and information.

I hope this guide reaches you in time to be of use in your area. I know it will be useful to me to keep me on track with my gardening tasks, but I am also sure this may not be the last version I compile. I welcome all constructive criticism and advice on how to improve it. I am sorry it may not be of much use to people in tropical and subtropical areas, but you guys do not have to deal with snow and our short growing seasons.

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