If you’re like me, right about now you are scrambling to plant all the things. Garden beds are not as ready as you had hoped. Not every place has been weeded. And to top it all off, you just accidentally weeded out a row of new seedlings.
I try to remember that this happens every year and every year there are going to be some successes and some disappointments.
It can be very helpful to give yourself permission to think outside of the box. I know what all the common wisdom is about doing things in a certain order and I know there can be value in that. But there is also value in both just getting things done and experimenting.
I have learned many useful things this way. And so I share some of them with you:
1. Circle weeding
Your garden bed doesn’t have to be pre-weeded. I still recommend weeding within a circle that your seed will sprout in. How large this circle is may depend on things like how big the weeds are, how large your seedling will be, and how soon you think you can get out there to weed again.
2. Spaced soil piles
You don’t have to have all the soil in your garden bed. In one garden area, I had a layer of manure spread, but there was not going to be any more soil available in time. So, I scavenged the remnants of my potting soil and made smallish piles along the irrigation tubing. I watered it down to help it settle, then planted the seeds in those piles.
3. Traveling seedlings
Seedlings don’t have to stay where they have sprouted. I move many seedlings every year to get better spacing, to fill in other places with flowers, and to share with others. Just try to make sure the seedlings have been watered fairly recently and take a good clump of soil with the roots.
If you are moving them somewhere nearby, simply having the hole ready will help a lot. If you are moving them across the yard or sharing them, some sort of pot will protect them.
4. Rain power for weeding
Weeding after a good rain will decrease your work by huge degrees. It is good to have this always in the back of your mind to take advantage of, even if it’s not on the schedule. You will be rewarded by a feeling of super weed-pulling-power as the weeds come up easily by the roots.
5. Rain power for planting
Along the same lines, watch the weather for upcoming rainy periods to time your seed planting. If you can plant right before a couple days of rain, you will not have to worry about a watering schedule and the seeds will get a solid soaking.
Of course, how much rain and which seeds and whether or not you are past the last frost date should be taken into consideration. For instance, several days of rain in the early spring will be great for lettuce, but very wrong for squash or beans. But a moderate rain when frost almost certainly done for the season is perfect for squash and beans.
6. Brain breaks
Don’t try to do everything in one day. Even if you only really have one week to get things in the ground so that they have long enough to grow, breaking things up into segments helps you to make fewer missteps. Doing a few things, then letting that settle in your mind will help you with problem solving. This means that in the long run, you will actually save time by taking time to relax your brain.
7. Guided expectations
Always take time to mark where you have planted. This should include the plant and date. It may seem like just one more thing to take up your time, but it will save you time and trouble later. You will be less likely to accidentally weed out new seedlings. You will have a better idea of when to consider re-planting in case something doesn’t seem to be sprouting.
8. Snack weeding
Weed as you go. This may seem at odds with what I said previously, but you don’t have to do major weeding to make progress. Maybe it is a thinking break. Maybe you are passing by and just feel like pulling a few weeds. Try not to think of weeding as something you will do later or as always a huge endeavor. Treat it like snacking, haha. (But don’t eat them unless you know they are safe to ingest!)
9. Keep your seeds in line
Sort your seeds according to the seasonal timeline. This can be done as part of your regular storage system, or it can be done to some degree during the planting season. I typically have a handful of stacks of seed packets for what I want to be planting in the near future. It happens naturally as I flip through the long-term organization and remember things. Then, after I plant, I put them back in alphabetical order.
10. Crowd control
Avoid taking too many seed packets out with you at once. Choose what is the most important or easiest to plant in the next hour at most. This will avoid wasting time trying to find which packet you want in your pocket or container.
11. Creating space
Planting root crops next to above ground crops is a big space saver. You can push this too far. Things still need space to grow and get enough water, but you can definitely grow onions closer to tomatoes than you can to pepper plants.
The foliage of the tomatoes and peppers would be vying for space. You may also need to think about orientation to sunlight. A closer planting may shade one plant too much, and stunt its growth. Planting it on the side with more sun exposure can take care of this.
12. Finger imposters
Use a dandelion weeder to push larger seeds into the dirt. Fingers work fine for less depth or if not planting too many seeds. Or if you don’t have sore fingers. If you don’t have sore fingers to begin with, you may get them if you push a lot of seeds into the dirt. Of course, there is also the method of trenching with a shovel to plant a row. This works well for smaller seeds or seeds that don’t have to be planted 1-2 inches deep.
13. Anti-cat armour
If you have cats regularly visiting your garden bed, place barriers around seed locations and newly planted seedlings. All it takes is one swipe to cover their mess and your seedlings are toast or your seeds are impossibly scattered or buried.
I have used wire covers in the past, but don’t have a way to do that at our new house. And the neighbor feeds about 30 feral cats. I have found that a combination of tomato cages, bamboo poles, landscape edging panels, and strategically places rocks (that will be removed later) greatly limit cats digging in the garden.
There are some very pretty panels out there (like this one), but for a budget choice there are plastic ones, too. You just want something that sticks easily into place and can be easily removed later.
14. Dress for success
An overly large man’s white dress shirt makes nice light weight gardening attire. It keeps bugs off when needed. It helps avoid over exposure to the sun before you skin has adjusted to summer. This lets me spend time outside when I might otherwise not.
Now, go plant all the things!