Frequently Asked Questions: General Gardening
Days to maturity:
Seed packets indicate days to maturity for many varieties of seed. They are best
used only as a general recommendation, because in our garden trials we have
found that soil, weather, and cultural conditions can vary widely from one area
to another, even between microclimates in one town. It’s helpful to use early,
mid-season, and late-season harvest notations as a general guide in comparing
different varieties of the same vegetables and in planning successive harvests,
rather than using days to maturity as absolute indicators of growing time.
Even if you have good soil with a high organic content, remember that most
plants need supplementary nutrition in the form of fertilizer for best growth
and to produce the abundant harvests we all desire. Whatever product you choose
to feed your plants, they should have a constant and adequate supply, especially
in sandy soils. Plan to feed monthly at prescribed regular intervals throughout
the growing season as it really can make a big difference in getting successful,
high yielding plants. There are many excellent organic fertilizers available now
in both liquid and granular formulations.
As longtime organic gardeners, a good, all-purpose, tried and true
combination we still rely on is: 1 tablespoon liquid fish emulsion and
1 tablespoon liquid kelp per gallon of water.
Building a good soil:
There is a very simple gardening Golden Rule: the better the condition of your
soil, the better garden you will have! The best way is to add humus—organic
material that is worked into soil to improve its balance, texture, and
water-holding capacity. Use aged manure, rotted leaves, peat moss, compost (the
best!) or whatever kind of organic material is available in your area. Adding
humus benefits all soil types—sandy soil will hold more water; clay soil will be
friable and less compacted. Humus will break down over time, so add it
continually to your garden. Add organic material before you plant each new crop
as well as at the end of the season.
Please promise to thin your seedlings out to the suggested finally spacing given
on the packet backs! Over and over, I’ve seen proof of the incontrovertible fact
that unhappy crowded plants just won’t grow or produce well and are more disease
prone. While it’s hard to acquire the habit of thinning out the seedlings we
have nurtured along, it is critical to a successful and healthy garden.
Unthinned seedlings inevitably tangle together and do no thrive or prosper in
the way properly spaced plants do. Properly thinned plants have the room they
need to grow and mature and bear the harvest you expect. Unthinned plants can
never reach their potential.
Storing Extra Seed:
Many gardeners have asked how to store leftover, unused seeds. Renee’s Garden
and other good seed companies’ seeds come to you with high germination rates,
and most varieties will keep easily for the next growing seasons. (Several
exceptions: onions, parsley, and lettuces do not always maintain their
germination and are best purchased fresh each year.) The worst enemies of
successful seed storage are humidity and heat. Never leave leftover seed packets
outside in the garden or in an unheated outdoor shed or garage, because high
humidity and dampness will ruin them. A sealed mason jar or freezer-weight
ziplock bag is an ideal storage container. Keep seeds dry and in your coolest
room or in a refrigerator. Plan to use them the next season.