Feb 082012
New plantings in the spring garden

by Avis Licht  –

New plantings in the spring garden

Pots near the kitchen are great for herbs



Early Spring is the time for gardeners to get ready for their early vegetable garden.Here are a few things to think about to help you get started.


1. Pick a place near the house for your vegetable garden so that you will see it everyday. Out of site is out mind for most people. Visit your garden for at least 10 minutes a day and you will keep up with the maintenance and see how plants are doing.  You’ll discover if there are any problems before it’s too late.

2. Pick a sunny site that gets at least 6 hours of sun. Most vegetables need this amount to grow well.

3. Make sure there’s water near by for irrigating.


Raised bed gardening

Easy to reach, easy to plant, easy harvest, it's a raised bed

1. Keep it Small and Simple, as the saying goes. First time gardeners should start small and be successful.  Graduate to a larger plot next year. A couple of beds, 3 ft x 6 ft, will give plenty of delicious vegetables.

2. Consider growing your herbs in pots near the kitchen where they are easy to harvest.


1.Whatever kind of soil you  have, be sure to loosen it and add compost. By aerating your soil and adding humus you will increase oxygen, nutrients and drainage, which will help your plants grow. You can loosen your soil by digging, rototilling or bringing in topsoil and adding it to a raised bed.

2. Check your soil for drainage. If you see standing water on the surface, or if you dig a hole and there is water in the bottom, you need to make some adjustments. Vegetables don’t like to grow in standing water.  There are several ways to improve drainage.  Dig into the hard soil with a digging fork and loosen it. Raised beds provide better drainage. You can also dig a small ditch and direct it away from the growing area. This will help move water away and improve your soil.

3. Create paths for walking in the garden.  Every time you walk on the soil you compact it. This prevents air and water from entering. Just by using paths and not walking on the beds you will increase the health of your soil and your plants.


Choose your plants wisely

Early spring you can sow and plant broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower

1. Choose your favorite foods to grow. Zucchinis are easy to grow, but if you don’t like them, don’t grow them! Peas, carrots, beans and tomatoes taste better when harvested ripe and fresh. They are easy to grow and harvest.

2. Choose what grows best in your climate and your site. If you’re in the cool Northwest  U.S. you might want to pass up on the hot peppers and melons.  Cooler climates are good for broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, chard and kale. If you’re in a hot climate go for the peppers, melons, squash and eggplant.

3. Look for micro climates in your garden to give you more opportunities to grow plants that you might otherwise leave out. A micro climate will be a place that is sunnier ( on the south side of the house), cooler (on the north side), calmer (on the lea side of a fence or windbreak), shadier (under a tree) and so on. Check out your garden for mini climates.


1.Your local nurseries will be carrying plants appropriate for your climate.  Ask them questions.

2. For the Western United States, consult Sunset Western Gardening Book.  It is amazing in it’s information for so many regions in the West.

3. Seed Catalogs and Online companies. Check out my list in the resource page.

Raised beds

Double dug beds are raised and need no edging


Oct 282011
A variety of plantsIn a small area you can have a variety of different plants with different needs

A micro climate is not just a little bit of climate. It is a small area that is different from the area around it. It could be warmer or colder, wetter or drier, or more or less prone to frosts.

We are told to look up our climate zone in order to know what to plant.  But the truth is that where we live the “climate ” is affected by the hills nearby, your home, trees, how much asphalt there is nearby, any bodies of water and which way the wind blows.

A shady spot for lettuce

You can create tiny microclimates in your garden beds

In the picture on the right, I created a small micro climate in the garden bed by planting lettuce with zucchini in the Spring.  The lettuce grew well in the full sun of Spring, then was shaded by the leaf of the zucchini as the sun got hotter. By the time the sun was too hot, the lettuce had already been harvested.

The good news is that you can make use of your own yard’s topography to grow plants that might not ordinarily grow in “your” climate.  For example, if you live in a climate with winter frosts but have a south facing wall with an overhang, you can grow plants such as lemons and limes that like a warmer winter. It could be that even a few degrees of warmth will make the difference between a fruiting tree and a dead tree.

Lemon tree very pretty

This lemon has been moved 4 times, trying to find the right spot

I live in a cold winter climate, with many days of frost. I keep trying to find a good place for my lemon.  It’s not dead yet. But it’s also not filled with fruit.

I put it in the yard which gets 6 hours of sun in the winter, but the frosts were too much for it.  I covered it with our down sleeping bags on really cold nights, but that wasn’t enough.  I moved it to the deck in a pot, but it didn’t get enough sun.  I then moved it to the back yard along a fence that got reflected west sun in the winter.  It’s looking better and I’m not ready to give up yet.  But I do have to mooch lemons off my friends that live in a warmer location.

The main lesson here is to observe your own garden in all its seasons and all its weather.  Notice which plants are thriving and which are struggling.  Look for special nooks and crannies that can give you more warmth, protection or moisture depending on what your plant needs.  To find out more about micro climates, read this great article.





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