Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Eat Fresh - Gardening all year long

For many, spring brings the opportunity to start a new garden. We tend to our garden soil, carefully select the vegetable plants we would like to grow, nurture them until the first harvest and beyond until the plants are spent and no longer producing. Then we clean up the garden area and put away our tools until the next spring.
Others take advantage of the cooler weather in the fall to plant a second garden full of tasty tender greens and root vegetables that, in the best years, product almost up until time to prepare for spring time. 
However, no matter which garden you are tending to, chances are that once the harvest is gone you will have several months between plantings. What if you could garden all year long and produce fresh food every single day? With limited space? Many hobby gardeners are learning techniques that enable them to plant and harvest every day of the year.  

Greenhouses – For the hobbyist Greenhouses have been traditionally thought of as seed starting houses. However, greenhouses can help you produce tomatoes, peppers, squash and other vegetables all through the year. The key is in temperature control and container gardening, planting your vegetables in containers large enough to support a healthy root system. Greenhouses come in a variety of sizes and are relatively inexpensive. There are even plans for the DIY’er that are quite impressive. 

Cold-frames – generally much smaller than a Greenhouse, these little boxes can provide the perfect environment for low growing vegetables and seed starting. You can find these commercially made or construct them yourself. Late in the winter we build many cold frames using cinder blocks and place old wooden frame windows over the top for a greenhouse effect to get a jump on a spring garden. You can even stack cinderblocks 2-3 high in a square or rectangle shape and lay clear plastic or glass over the top to grow many things throughout the year.  

Container gardening – Micro-greens are extremely popular in salads, sandwiches and wraps and can be easily grown in containers.  They have a very fine, shallow root system and can grow quite compacted. Simply find a large pot, fill with fresh, quality potting soil and broadcast a variety of Micro-green seeds generously on top. Then water until the soil is damp. The seeds are rather tiny so you don’t need to plant them deep. Just a thin sprinkling of potting soil over the top should do. Place in a sunny location and wait for them to emerge.  They are very easy to grow even for the novice gardener but remember to water them periodically. The soil needs to stay damp, not wet and greens do not like to dry out. Once mature you can pick Micro-greens for your salads, sandwiches and wraps for a long time.

Hoop houses – Constructed directly in the garden these horseshoe shaped covers protect plants from frost and also create a greenhouse effect keeping plants warm after the sun goes down. Horseshoe shaped wire hoops are pushed into the ground evenly spaced apart over your planting area in a row shaped configuration. Special clear plastic that allows the plants to breathe or greenhouse netting can be used, depending on weather conditions. These coverings are draped over the hoops and secured to the ground using anything that will hold it in place. When you are ready to harvest, simply lift the sides. Hoops and hoop house coverings come in a variety of sizes, heights and materials and are available at many reputable online garden supply houses.  

There are a few of the easy, practical ways to garden all year long that are both easy and affordable and will let you enjoy fresh vegetables all year long. 

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