Spring edible gardening is one of the most fruitful plantings of the year, with dozens of edible plants to choose from, as well as the sun rising/setting in the perfect course for optimal growing. Whether you have been growing your own food for years or you are just starting, it is always great to fill your mind with helpful hints and tricks to having a bountiful harvest throughout the season. Here are some of our best practices for growing edible plants for your family and friends.
- LIGHT –
The number one thing that spring gardens need is sun. Making sure you have enough sun throughout the day, in the spot you want to plant your veggie garden, is integral. If it is your first time planting, spend a day paying attention to how the sun moves across your yard. When growing veggies you want “full sun” or 6+ hours of direct sun every day for an abundant crop yield. South and west sides of the yard usually get the most sun depending on other structures or tall trees in your yard.
- SIZING –
Planning the size of the garden you want before starting from seed, or planting starter plants, is helpful so you know how many plants you will want. Generally, raised bed gardens come in multiples of 4 feet (4x4, 4x8, 4x12). This is so you are able to reach across your beds and efficiently harvest your plants. Planting in rows, and gardening straight from the native soil, is also possible, but the soil will need to be amended in both cases before planting.
Spacing your plants the appropriate width apart is also an important thing to consider when planning. Reading the labels and asking one of our Green Team members can help make sure you aren’t planting too close or too far away.
If you have limited space for your spring edible garden, check out Mike, the Garden Guru’s seminar on Growing Edibles in Small Spaces here.
- THE PLANTS –
What will you grow? When thinking on what to plant, you will want to consider what you already like eating, as well as what the other people in your household like eating. In the spring, there are hundreds of varieties of veggies, herbs, and fruits that you can grow into the summer. Here are our top favorites for the Hampton Roads area now:
- Tomatoes - Super Sweet 100, Sun Gold, Roma, Early Girl, Cherokee Purple, Better Boy, and Beefmaster.
- Squash - Zucchini Aristocrat and Superset Yellow Neck.
- Peppers - Red Beauty/Red Knight, Jalapeño, and Big Bertha.
- Peas - Sugar Snap
- Eggplant - Japanese Millionaire
- Cucumbers - Tasty Jade, Sweet Success, Push Pickle, Bush Crop/Champion, Burpless 26
- Beans - Bean Bush
- Strawberries - Chandler
- Herbs - English Thyme, Berggarten Sage, Tuscan Blue Rosemary, Barbeque Rosemary, Italian Parsley, Curly Parsley, Italian Oregano, Cat's Pajamas Nepeta Catmint, Mojito Mint, East Indian LemonGrass, Provence Lavender, Munstead Lavender, Hidcote Lavender, Goodwin Creek Lavender, Scented Citronella Geranium, Dill, Cilantro, Chives, And Sweet Basil.
Different edibles may have different watering, planting and light requirements that will help them grow the best that they can. Pay attention to labels as well as take advantage of our Green Team’s expertise on plant care if you are in our year-round stores and seasonal garden markets.
- SOIL PREPARATION –
Prepping the soil for your spring edibles is another essential before planting. Whether you are planting in a raised bed, pots and containers, or even if you are growing in your native ground, you probably need to amend or mix your soil.
- Container planting – Terracotta, glazed ceramic, plastic, hanging baskets, the list goes on! Planting in containers is very doable for edible gardening. For container planting, you will need potting soil. Potting soils have wetting agents that help the soil stay moist in containers. You only ever use potting soil for plants in containers. For more information on the right container for your edible garden, check out our blog on How to Contain your Garden here.
- Raised Beds – Prep your raised beds for filling with soil by measuring how big your bed is, including the depth so you know how many cubic feet of soil you need. For raised bed planting, you will need a mix of topsoil, compost, peat moss, and perlite. You can also use a pre-made garden mix or raised bed mix.
- Amending Native Soil – When planting straight in the ground, plants want moist, well-draining soil. Our native soils may not be able to achieve that as they are missing or lacking in essential nutrients. For planting in your clay native soil you will need a mix of compost, perlite (or vermiculite), and your native soil. For planting in your sandy native soil you will need a mix of compost, peat moss, and your native soil.
Remember that soil pH is also important when amending your soil. The general desired pH for edible gardens is 6.5 - 7. Amend your soil with lime to “sweeten” your soil by raising your pH to be more alkaline. Amend your soil with a soil acidifier to lower your pH to be more acidic.
- TIME TO PLANT –
Planting level with the ground is recommended for all edible planting. Some plants can be planted a little deeper (like tomatoes) but, the general rule is level with the soil. After planting, mulching your garden is a good idea to avoid weeds, keep the moisture in, keep your roots cool in the hot summer days, and keep your plants warm on cooler days. This can be done in containers as well as raised beds and in-ground plantings.
- TOOLS & TIPS –
After planting is all said and done, now it’s time to enjoy growing your garden! You still might need some additional tools and tricks to help you in your spring edible garden journey. Check out Mike, the Garden Guru’s seminar on Veggie Garden Prep for tips, tricks, and tools along with a downloadable handout for your convenience here.