Planting o' the Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I know Spring doesn't officially start for a few more days, but when we get to St. Patty's Day it feels like time to start growing stuff. Maybe it's all the green. Every year we try something new in the garden. New plants, new methods, new ideas. That's what I love about gardening, every year is different. 

In Colorado you can't get things in the ground safely until about Mother's day, so we usually start seeds inside in March or April. Every year we start a little sooner. This year we are trying a new greenhouse method. I saw it on a garden forum, but there wasn't really any info with the picture. Still, I could see the possibilities of this economical and flexible greenhouse method and knew this was something we wanted to try. I bought these clear 66 qt Sterilite containers (with clear lids) at Walmart for less than $9 each. Each one fits about 12-15, 4-pks of plants, or a combination of different sizes of containers. 

When it's warm and sunny in the morning we offset the lids to let them vent and not get too hot. Once the sun's not shining on them you can put the lids on and stack them to save space. In years past it's been hard having a little greenhouse in the kitchen sometimes. Now, if we need to move them we can. Plus they will be easy to put outside when the weather is nice and when it's time to harden them off slowly before we plant them in the garden. If we happen to get a late frost, we can turn the boxes upside-down over the plants in the garden to protect them, and when we are done with them for the season, they stack inside each other for easy storage. 

Before we planted our seeds this year I tried soaking the larger seeds. I've read this speeds sprouting time. I just soaked them for 10-30 minutes in an ice cube tray so I could keep them separate, but soak them all at once. 

Every year we plan out our garden so we know what we want to grow and where, and how many plants to start. Then I start a couple more of each plant than we need just in case some don't grow. If they all grow we have some to give to friends. : ) 

This year I'm trying to be more strategic. I looked up several companion plant guides (here's one if you're looking), to see what's best grown together. I'm not that picky about flowers, so I am mostly only planting flowers that will help our veggie garden. I've read that nasturtium improves the flavor of tomatoes and can also keep some bugs at bay. Nasturtium flowers are edible, which would make for a pretty salad too. Marigolds are also notorious natural bug repellers. I found a pretty vanilla variety of marigold I'm excited about. I also read that planting sunflowers near cucumbers will give them a sweeter flavor and if you want you can use the stalks as a trellis for the cucumber. Interesting huh? We love basil and that's also supposed to keep some bugs out of the garden and help with better pollination (read about that here), so rather than just planting that in our herb garden, I'm mixing it into our veggie beds this year. 

We'll see how all our new methods pan out. I've got a few other garden plans in the works, so hopefully I will have more garden ideas to share soon. Any gardening tips that have helped your garden? 

**Update: Click here to see how the greenhouse boxes are working just one week later,
and click here to see them at six weeks after planting.
We will definitely be doing these again, although next year we are going to be careful to use "seed starting soil" rather than just potting soil, because it seems like the 2" containers run out of nutrients before it's time to transplant them. **

Happy planting! 
 - Haley


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