Growing a Food Garden in the City Planting Part 1

About the proper preparation needed to plant your own food garden in particular the guide to proper planting.

PLANTING

Now you're ready to plant. You can start plants from seeds or you can plant seedlings. If you are efficient and live in a climate with a long growing season, it's best to start just about every variety of plant from seed. This means you probably should begin indoors before the frost-free date. Tomato plants, for example, should be started about 6 weeks before you intend to put them in the ground. The easiest way to start plants is in peat pots or cardboard egg cartons, both of which can be placed directly in the soil, which will help ease transplant shock. Before you put the seed into the ground, you can soak it overnight in "manure tea," a mixture of warm water and a spoon of aged manure. This soaking will speed up the germination process.

When seedlings get so big their leaves touch one another, it's time to thin them. Using scissors, cut off every other seedling at ground level. The remaining plants will have enough room for their roots to get much stronger. Make sure at this point that you don't hurt the young seedlings by drowning them. They are still quite delicate. If they seem to be growing too tall and are spindly, they may be reaching for light. Make sure they're close to a bright window. Or their soil may be too rich, causing them to "speed." Try starting over with a blander soil. Another reason plants grow tall and skinny is that their pots are too small for adequate development of their root systems. It's time to transplant.

When the seedlings are a few inches high, they can be placed in bigger pots or in the ground. If you live in a cold climate but your plants are getting too big to keep inside, you might consider building them a cold frame. This is a miniature greenhouse dug a few inches into the ground and rising about a foot above it. You can use wood or cinder block for the walls and glass or plastic for the roof. If possible, build walls lower on the south side. The sloping top will provide more sun. Matured compost should be dug into the soil of the cold frame and your seedlings can be planted when they are 6" to 8" tall. If the soil is so frozen you can't dig into it, lay down a layer of gravel for drainage before you put in the compost and plants.

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