Now is the time to get down to business in the garden. We’ve done all the groundwork on getting the garden ready, now we will concentrate on getting seeds into the ground.
When to Plant:
Get a monthly calendar. Mark the last frost date in the spring (In Zone 9, that is around March 15th) and first frost date in fall (in Zone 9, November 15th). Count back from the first frost date by weeks.
Check your seed packages. Some will say ‘plant indoors X weeks before last frost.’ Plant those on the indicated time frame.
Some will say ‘plant when soil temperature is X degrees.’ Those will have to wait until the average soil temperature is right to plant outdoors.
Some will say to plant during a particular month or time period.
Check your seed packages for maturity dates. Some plants have early maturing and late maturing varieties. You can stagger plant some plants to extend your harvest, or you can plant crops with different maturity dates to extend the harvest. What you don’t want is a huge amount of produce all at once.
Write down when to plant what variety of vegetable, and keep to that schedule. Don’t plant cool-season crops too late in the season, or hot-weather crops early in the year.
You can plan the various seasons-Spring plants that like cooler weather, Summer plants that like it hot, and then Fall plants that will grow and produce in the cooler months.
What to Plant:
Of course, you want to plant what you will eat.
But also, plan what plants grow well together, and what plants need to be kept separate. Plan what plants will help beneficial insects and what plants will repel the bad bugs. If this is your first garden, you won’t know all these facts, and that’s okay. Gardening is a long-term project. If you keep good notes on your garden, and educate yourself, your knowledge will grow as your experience grows, and you will get better harvest as time goes on.
When to Harvest:
Another mistake I made as a novice gardener was not knowing when to harvest. I would plant things, and not remember when the harvest date was, and so left the crop in the garden past its prime. The result was starchy corn, tough okra, sour-tasting greens and so on.
To avoid this mistake, note in your calendar the planting date, and also the harvest date, or days to maturity. It is not necessary to follow that date exactly, just be aware that the time is near for harvesting that particular crop. Weather or other conditions may have changed the harvest date by a few days.
Check the garden regularly:
Be sure to check your garden regularly for signs of insect damage. Check the underside of leaves for eggs or caterpillars. Check the leaves for damage caused by nibbling pests. When you see something happening, take action immediately. Pick off any insects you find, destroy the egg clusters.
You can use Neem oil as an insect deterrent, or other organic methods. If you use pesticides, you probably will kill good insects as well as the bad ones you are trying to get rid of.
Now, all that is left to do is to take good care of your garden. Water well, keep the weeds down, watch for insect damage, and you will have a good crop of vegetables all year long!