A rerun from March 2003
"Spring, the sweet spring, is the year's pleasant king;
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing,
"Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!"
Thomas Nashe (1567-1601)
The sun is out, green shoots are everywhere, and spring is here! While the nights are still too cool for summer vegetables to be happy in the ground, there is planning and soil preparation we can do and seeds to buy and start. Once the night temperatures are above 55F, the seedlings can go in.
Find a sunny spot, a hose, and a couple of shovels
Take some samples of the plants that are growing
there to find out the best way to get rid of them.Mow them off or chop them
down, if appropriate, maybe even cover them with plastic for a little
Dig the edges and make a layout, then water the
area with a sprinkler for a little while and plan to come back to it in a few
Measure it and plot it on paper.
Go and ask about what grows well here and when to
Decide what I wanted to grow, writing down
everything. Don't forget flowers and herbs!
Go through and turn the soil once to bury the
chopped weeds, and water again lightly. Let it sit for a couple of
Turn it again with shovels, spading forks, or a
rototiller, mixing in bags of soil amendment that you buy (or have delivered
bulk; add some fertilizer to this). Turn, mix, and rake this until the dirt is
mixed with the compost and the soil feels kind of fluffy. Rake it all smooth
and make your rows.
Roll out a simple drip watering system, or a
soaker hose. Hold this in place with "anchor pins" or bent pieces of
wire. Make sure you'll be able to control the water to your tomatoes separately
from all the other plants, as they'll need a lot less frequent watering as the
season goes along.
Plant! Put in your young transplants, watering
each one as you go. Plant seeds carefully, covering them with loose soil and
pressing it in gently, then water the whole bed. You'll want an attachment for
the hose that makes a gentle spray of water for the seedlings. Don't forget to
label each row.
Put down something to prevent weeds. Landscape
fabric covered with mulch, multiple layers of old newspapers (omit the colored
sections), a thick layer of barkï¿½.weeds grow faster than baby vegetables!
At least 3 - 4 tomatoes. One
reliable hybrid, one small-fruited type, one or two sauce types for cooking,
and at least one heirloom type for fun.
A couple of
bell peppers, including one that is a different color; one
productive hybrid such as 'Gypsy', and one medium-hot pepper for salsa such as
Jalapeo or Anaheim.
A cucumber that isn't likely to get bitter, such
as Lemon or a burpless type, or an Armenian one to train up on a
I'd do several plantings of bush
beans a few weeks apart, crowding them in around other
plants 'cuz you pull them out after you harvest them. Or make a narrow teepee
and grow some pole beans, but be sure to keep them picked or they'll stop
Some seeds of carrots, beets, and
I'd probably plant an eggplant.
I always do, for some reason.
At least a couple of plants of
basil. Although I find the pot I plant near the front door
is the one that gets used the most. And some other fresh
herbs: Italian parsley, chives, oregano, and a couple of plants of
English thyme--all scattered around the edges of the garden, or at the
entrance, mixed with some lavender for fragrance and
Some green onion seedlings for
Some strawberries--but don't
expect any fruit to make it all the way to the house.
One squash plant. Period. And
we LIKE squash.
At least a couple of potato
plants, because they're fun to harvest and taste very sweet fresh from the
A couple of okra plants,
because they're easy to grow, don't take much space, and it's worth a try
A few large sunflowers for
seeds, even if it's just for the birds.
If I were planting a summer vegetable garden for the very first time, I'd....
Check the seeds and young plants each day for watering. You can water with your hose for the first few weeks while the plants are getting going; then you'll use the soaker hose for deeper waterings.
Go buy a good book on vegetarian cooking! Deborah Madison's is the best I own.
If I were limited for space, and wanted a little bit of everything, I'd plant:
If I had unlimited space, and lots of shovels and kids and time, I'd have
Every kind of sunflower, and lots of
cosmos for the butterflies and hummingbirds.
Borage for the bees, and
flowers for the good bugs.
Enough Ambrosia melons to have
one every day.
Gigantic watermelons, and some
that fit in the icebox.
Wax beans and green beans--and purple beans and
Italian beans, and interesting beans for drying for soups.
Sweet peppers of every possible color, green and
ripe. Hot peppers to use, and some to admire from afar.
Tomatoes to share, cook, and can.
Okra and eggplant of every kind, just to give
Three or four kinds of potatoes, so you could dig
up a mix of new baby ones right from the garden to boil for your dinner that
Sweet white corn from July
Three different types of summer squash, so some
could grow into huge misshapen monsters.
Winter squashes for baking on
rainy days. Pumpkins for pie and fun. Weird gourds.
A long row of pickling
cucumbers so you could pick a few each day to make pickles or relish
Some beds planted in cover
crops to be ready for the fall garden.
Alpine strawberries and mint to
sample while you sit in the nearby shade--watching the kids and shovels at
Maybe that really is Where The Sidewalk Ends.
© 2013 Don Shor, Redwood Barn Nursery, Inc., 1607 Fifth Street, Davis, Ca 95616
Feel free to copy and distribute this article with attribution to this author.