The gardening race has begun. With the snow having melted and the temperatures slowly raising, it is time to put the seed to the dirt. I do not have a fancy set up in the least. Bags of good seed starting soil, quality seeds and a sunny south-facing window are the tools I used to get my seeds sprouting. I have used a few techniques to ensure good germination. Creating a greenhouse effect by covering your newly planted seeds with a plastic shower cap or using plastic lettuce or berry containers to plant your seeds in and use the lid helps keep the moisture and heat in to start. As soon as the little sprouts emerge from the dirt and reach for the sun, I remove the covering and let them continue to grow. Keeping the soil nice and moist is key.
I used wool this spring to line the containers before adding dirt in hopes that the wool would act as a wick to retain the moisture. I have not seen a dramatic difference thus far in the wooled and unwooled containers. If nothing else, the wool will give a little nitrogen boost. I plan to use the discard wool from shearing as mulch this year in the garden. Not only will it provide moisture retaining properties, but I have read that it repels slugs. I have collected a big bag, so it’s worth a try!
The warm crop vegetables, flowers and herbs are the seeds that I start indoors first. Tomatoes, squash, peppers and herbs. Leeks and shallots have a long germination period, so I start them early as well. Speaking of shallots, I encourage you to give them a try. The Crème brûlée shallot from Johnny Seeds has become a favorite of mine. It has a lovely mild flavor and keeps well through the winter. Cooking with the shallots gives a nice sweet onion flavor that enhances any dish. A big bonus is chopping them up does not make me cry!
In planning my garden this year and for the last 30 years, I like to incorporate the companion planting method. To companion plant is to group plants together that harmoniously grow well together and bring something for the other surrounding plants to be strengthened by. Be it insect repelling, nitrogen giving or shade producing, this allows for a beautiful and beneficial gardening experience.Companion planting captivates gardeners. We’re charmed by the notion that plants have “friends” who help them grow strong and more resistant naturally.
As an organic gardener, simple, nonchemical methods are a wonderful approach to healthy soil and bodies.This system of companion gardening keeps my little piece of earth and its inhabitants healthy and thriving. I never use chemicals in my garden, because companion planting and other natural techniques keep pest problems at a minimum. Combining vegetables, flowers and herbs is beautiful to the eye and so enjoyable to stroll through.
The idea that planting onions and related crops near and among carrots to confuse or repel the carrot rust fly is an easy and beautiful way to have the plants work together. Have you heard of the three sister plants? Pumpkins, pole beans and corn. Pumpkins and corn are heavy feeders, while pole beans are nitrogen producers. It makes for a perfect symbiotic relationship! There are wonderful books written on the subject of companion planting that I encourage you to look for. Below is a helpful chart that can get you started in designing a companion based garden.
With more time spent outdoors, I have enjoyed making a moisturizing lavender lotion bar that is so healing for the gardener’s hands and feet. As soon as my lavender plants have bloomed and are ready to harvest, I steep some of the lavender buds in nourishing oil. This is the base for my lotion bars. These little bars have become a popular gift for my family and friends! Check out the recipe here and see for yourself what a simple yet wonderful lotion bar these are! Lavender plants are wonderful in attracting honey bees, providing beauty and food for the good insects.