It’s not too late to plant

It’s not too late to plant
May 2, 2012

For those who have been thinking “I’d like to start an organic garden  this year,” it’s not too late. Lots of folks plant during the first week  in May.
Traditionally in Mississippi, the old folks advise planting on  Good Friday, but that’s not a hard rule, and it mostly applies to seeds,  not “starts,” or plants
started in pots. Also, we generally experience a  frost around Easter in Mississippi, which can kill tender plants. So  it’s often wise to wait until the
week after Easter to plant.
That covers early planting, but what about on the other end? How late can you plant?
You can plant just about anytime in spring and summer and grow fresh,  wholesome fruits and vegetables. For organic gardens, the operative word  is “bugs.”
Because we don’t use chemical poisons—where one can plant  late and then spray and spray and spray to control ever more hatches of  insects—we want to get started early and allow both beneficial and  harmful insects to develop together, in balance.
At my little ShooFly farm, anyway, we plant early to harvest before it  gets really hot in August. Who wants to be out working in the hot sun  when it’s 100
degrees and the humidity is 98 percent? We don’t, for  sure!
It’s a balancing act; you don’t want to plant too early and endanger  the plants via frost or when the soil is so cold that seeds don’t  germinate and rot in the
ground. Plant too early and your plants may  become stunted, but you don’t want to wait so long that the bugs are  already established to eat up your plants.
To plan a timeline for your garden, just read the seed packet. It will  say how many days until maturity. For example, if you plant corn with 90  days maturity,
and you plant May 2, you can expect ripe corn August 2  or thereabouts.

Making a ‘Jim’s Plot’
I recommend  creating a “Jim’s Plot,” a 4-foot by 8-foot plot, either  raised bed or not,  to start your garden. If you like, you can always  expand it; but
that’s a good starting size.
Outline a 4-by-8 area and enclose it in nontoxic materials. You can buy  synthetic lumber, including stuff made from recycled plastics and  rubber, or
use materials you have at hand like concrete blocks, tin or  other materials. You could also simply mound up the soil as a natural  boundary or use cedar or
redwood lumber.
In the plot, use either bagged soil—Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Garden  Soil is widely available at garden stores and is OMRI (Organic Materials  Review
Institute) approved for certified organic use—or dig from areas  of your yard where leaves may have accumulated over the years to provide  loamy soil. Work the soil with a shovel to loosen it to the depth of  the shovel (about 8 inches), or use a garden tiller. Start keeping a  compost bin and add compost
periodically to build up the soil.
It should take you maybe a day to build and plant the plot. Use  certified organic seeds (available at local garden supply stores) or  heirloom plants. To
be all organic, don’t use hybrids or genetically  modified (GMO) plants.

Women and Their Gardens
“Women and Their Gardens” by Catherine Horwood (Ball Publishing, 2012,  $26.95) would make a terrific Mother’s Day gift idea. Subtitled “A  History from the Elizabethan Era to Today,” it’s a hefty tome at 431  pages, but it’s filled with interesting lore from the 18th-century  salons of Mayfair to the women gardeners of World War II. The book’s  focus is English gardens; it doesn’t delve into the modern  small-agriculture movement in America that is liberally composed of  young women. But if she’s into gardening, mom might like it.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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