Gardening Tips for Season and Geography

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Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS
Follow these gardening tips for where you live.

Maritime Canada & New England

Do I detect the faintest smell of spring in the air or is
it just wishful thinking? January catalog perusals have
turned into seed orders arriving in the mailbox, and
it’s time to get out the seed-starting trays. I wash
them with castile soap or a mild (3-percent to 5-percent)
bleach solution. Start early seedlings of pansies,
petunias, onions, leeks, peppers and eggplant, as well as
celery and celeriac. I plant a few tomatoes now, especially
‘Sungold’ cherry, and wait to sow my main crop
in early April. It’s time to prune fruit trees
— get outside and enjoy the sun’s warmth and
fresh air. Save some shoots of last year’s growth
(scions) for grafting in April. Triple wrap the scion wood
in plastic and store in a refrigerator or cold cellar until
needed.o not store scion wood in the same place as apples
because they release ethylene gas, which can kill the wood.

 — Roberta Bailey, FEDCO Seeds, Waterville,
Maine.

Mid-Atlantic

Are your seeds ordered yet? You may face availability
problems if you procrastinate! February is the time to
start peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages and eggplant
in flats. (Our favorite homestead peppers are ‘Doe
Hill Golden Bell’ and ‘Aji Dulce.’) Begin
planting leafy greens in March, but do so sparingly —
planting a few seeds each week is the key. Red mustard and
lettuces add a colorful twist to the salad mix. Wait until
mid-March to start the main crop of tomatoes. When the
whippoorwill sings, begin transplanting the earliest
brassicas, greens and tomatoes outside under row covers.

Do you want to reclaim an area overrun with blackberries,
kudzu or Jerusalem artichokes? Scrounge up some sturdy
fencing and buy a piglet or two. They will turn the old
established roots into meat, while ridding your soil of
weeds and increasing the soil’s nutrient levels. The
plot will be the star of your garden next year.

 — Cricket Rakita, Southern Exposure Seed
Exchange, Mineral, Va.

Southern Interior

Starting tomatoes from seed? Sow them six to eight weeks
before the last expected frost and keep them between 75 and
85 degrees until they germinate. Keep them in strong
sunlight or fluorescent light. Pepper seeds can be sown at
the same time, but they take longer to develop strong
roots. Wait until four weeks past the last frost date to
set transplants out into the garden. Garden peas like cool
weather, so they should be sown six weeks before the last
spring frost. do not over-fertilize or blossoms may drop.
Get those pea trellises up, too. Even if the variety you
plant isn’t supposed to need staking, it will produce
better if it has support.

 — Lori Hardee, Karen Park Jennings, Park Seed
Co., Greenwood, S.C.

Gulf Coast

There’s a temptation to “jump the gun”
and plant the tomato patch in February — just
remember there’s always the chance for a late freeze
in March, and these early plantings don’t seem to
last as long. If you give in, add a later planting to
continue the tomato harvest into August.
‘Dona,’ ‘Carmello’ and
‘Champion’ are varieties that are hard to beat.
The giantfruited varieties —
‘Brandywine,’ ‘Beefsteak’ and the
like — are usually poor producers on a
yield-per-plant basis. Sow beans and corn throughout March,
and transplant peppers and eggplant later in the month, but
wait until it really warms up in April for Southern peas
and okra. If you’re working up new beds, don’t
forget the compost. A few inches incorporated into the soil
can work wonders. Top-dress fruit trees with compost, too.

 — Bill Adams, Burton, Texas.

Central/Midwest

While you are ordering your seeds, starting mix, trays and
tools, why not take some time to think about pest problems?
Combining pest-control products with your seed order will
save shipping costs. More importantly, you will be prepared
when the uninvited guests attack, instead of panicking and
rushing out to buy whatever you can find. Thinking ahead
also can help you take effective action when insects and
disease organisms are at the most vulnerable stages of
their life cycles — or time plantings to avoid damage
altogether.id you notice bird damage last summer or hear
the sound of squirrel laughter and find paw prints where
sunflower seeds used to be? Planning your garden to avoid
straight rows, or mixing vegetables with flowers may
confuse animals enough to spare some plants for you. For
more certain protection, order plastic mesh. I have mine on
hoops like a mini-greenhouse and now enjoy whole heads of
lettuce instead of squirrel-created
“frisée.”

 — Connie Dam-Byl, William Dam Seeds Ltd., Dundas,
Ontario.

North Central & Rockies

This time of hope and lengthening days just may be the most
wonderful season for cold-country gardeners. We are still
harvesting Brussels sprouts, kale and evergreen bunching
onions from beneath receding snows. The deep, sweet smell
of earthy potting soil fills the kitchen as we prepare
flats to receive pepper, tomato and cabbage-family seeds.
Our tried-and-tested potting mix is equal parts compost,
peat moss and coarse sand. Flats are kept in a 70-degree
location, covered with a layer of wet newspaper to insure
good germination. Once the little green arches of new
plants poke through the soil, provide lots of direct light.
Transplant to a larger container before they become
root-bound, which slows their growth and loses precious
momentum. If your tomatoes become leggy, remove the first
set of leaves and transplant them deeper in the soil. The
leggy stem will become part of a healthy root system.

 — Bill McDorman, Seeds Trust, High Altitude
Gardens, Hailey, Idaho.

Pacific Northwest

The calendar may say winter, but it’s time to think
spring. Peppers can be started in late February and
tomatoes in March. After seedlings germinate, adequate
light and moderate temperatures will assure sturdy plants.
Starting transplants takes a little time and planning, but
growing your own plants is richly satisfying and gives you
an interesting and economical plant selection. If you need
more rosemary or lavender plants, peg a few branches to the
moist ground and in a few months they’ll root and
form a new plant. Take advantage of breaks in our winter
weather to get after the early weeds and sow seeds for
spring greens and lettuces. One way to keep ahead of weeds
is to get your garden favorites growing early. Keep ahead
of the slugs with one of the new nontoxic iron-based
products such as Sluggo.

 — Rose Marie Nichols McGee, Nichols Garden
Nursery, Albany, Ore.; Josh Kirschenbaum, Territorial Seed
Co., Cottage Grove, Ore.

Southwest

Excitement builds in February as we watch our
fall-collected seed turn into seedlings in the greenhouse.
We divide yacon roots for seedling production — this
sweet, crunchy tuber is also known as Bolivian sunroot and
has been a staple of the Andean people for centuries.
Onions and leeks are seeded into a potting mix of coir
(coconut husk fibers), compost, sand, alfalfa meal,
cottonseed meal and perlite. Meanwhile, seeds of lobelia,
echinacea, culver’s root and astragalus make their
way to the refrigerator in wet, moist sand for 30 days of
stratification before they are patted into the surface of
our potting mix. This process improves germination for
these beautiful perennials, which are also very effective
in attracting beneficials. Out in the garden, it is time to
plant snap and snow peas for a June harvest of these
delicious pods. We peruse garden catalogs for anything we
forgot — and hope they haven’t sold out!

 — Erica Renaud, Seeds of Change, Santa Fe,
N.M.