It is officially spring and I finally had a day I could start planting the onions. I would like to have planted them a few weeks ago but it is by no means too late. I want to make sure my spring cool weather plants are in by April 9th. They came in the mail a week ago and we kept them fresh by storing them in the fridge until we could plant.
Planting onions is going to be a big task this year because dad ordered $27 worth of sets. That’s a LOT of onions! We more than likely will be selling them this fall because I don’t think we will need that many for the year. It’s better to have too many than not enough though and I can’t stand buying produce when I can grow it on my own and know exactly the methods it was grown. I don’t have to worry about consuming pesticides when the food comes from my backyard.
Today we planted 5 beds of onions and we didn’t even use a quarter of what we bought! Yikes… When I lived on the farm it would have been no big deal but when space is limited in the garden you have to plant wisely.
I started working with the beds just like when I did the garlic. Then I made my rows and started setting the onions in. I made a video so it is easier to see exactly how I do it. Leveling and making rows
I set an onion in the shallow trench I made, allowing the roots to splay out on the soil and not be all bunched up and tangled. Then I move soil to cover the roots and partway up the onion. Tamping it down gently but firmly so the onion will stay standing up and get a good beginning, I move on to the next plant. I made a short little video to show you how. Planting Onions video
The onions we have been growing get huge, so I plant them 5 or 6 inches apart. The recommended spacing is 4 inches. Usually I only do two rows in my 18″wide beds but I’m thinking with as many onions as I have got to find homes for this spring, I may double them up.
I want them to have plenty of room for good air flow. I also want them spaced far enough apart that they are not competing for water and nutrients. Today I planted only the two rows but I’m seriously contemplating going back and doubling what I did. I’ll get the advice of my dad before I do. He, my mom and I are partners in crime as we plan what to grow in our joint garden. 🙂
Now is the time to be getting in you spring plants. These will include lettuces, spinach, radishes, peas, chard, kale, green onions and anything that can handle a little bit of frost as we move into warm weather. I have another post from a couple years ago that might be helpful.
I have been looking forward to this day for a month now. When February rolls around it is time for me to find my garlic source and plan where I’m planting it this year. I like to plant between the middle of February to the beginning of March. I live in zone 6a. Here is a map to figure out what zone you live in. It will help determine when you will be planting. UTAHUnited States
Last year I just went to Walmart and grabbed whatever they had. Our garlic crop wasn’t the best 🙁 , but I can’t actually blame it on the generic garlic cloves. That is a story in it’s self involving two separate incidents with super helpful family members.
Each year we divide the garden between all of us, the boys and I, so we have certain things we are in charge of for the season. Last year the garlic was Luke’s charge. He was 12 and had been involved in the garden every year of his life, so I gave him the responsibility of planting the garlic on his own. It should have been fine. I should have supervised. 🙂
He planted the garlic but he got it too shallow. Many of the bulbs heaved up out of the ground with the frosts. That left a smaller crop of garlic but then helpful family member number two enters the scene!
My husband decided to be super wonderful and weed a garden bed for me. He went for the garlic bed. Some tomato plants had sprung up on their own from seeds that fell the year before. We were going to weed them out and grow our tomatoes elsewhere, allowing the remaining garlic to keep growing. Brian saw those awesome tomatoes growing and weeded all of the grassy looking ‘weeds’ out of the bed. That grass happened to be the garlic that had survived the shallow planting! Ha ha ha!
This year I took the planting of the garlic on for myself. I picked up good organic garlic from the health food store. I then waited for the weekend and some decent weather.
Get the bed ready
To get the bed ready I tilled up the soil with my electric Mantis tiller that I love. I got it for my birthday the summer of 2011 and have had zero trouble with it since. My dad owns one too. It is the second he has owned since I was a kid growing up in Wyoming. These tillers are small but they pack a whollop:) I have even tilled sod with it.
I have a post HERE about how I get my beds ready if I am starting from scratch.
My 4 year old niece was hanging out with me and she wanted to help. She was actually quite a good helper. She got her hands dirty and it was fun to hear her chatter away as we worked.
Once the soil was good and tilled I should have added in some pre-plant fertilizer as outlined HERE, but I didn’t have it ready and I didn’t want to delay my planting any more. Spring is coming quickly and I knew if I didn’t get going it wouldn’t get done…. I know, shortcuts. They will bite you in the end. If my garlic doesn’t turn out as good as I hoped please remind me of my hastiness!
Level the bed
Next I got out the level and as straight of a board as I could find (my dad helped me out with some new lumber of his). I used this to get the soil good and level. If you don’t do this straight off the bat your bed will be slanted all season and your water will pool at one end. I have done this enough times to know 🙂 Not leveling the bed gives you good garlic at one end of your bed and puny dried up garlic at the other end!
Depth and width
Once leveled, I poke holes in the soil with the end of my shovel. I go about 4 to 6 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. I think I got these a little further apart than that. It is better to err on the side of too far apart rather than too close together. For plant health they need air circulating and plenty of water and nutrients in the soil.
It’s important to make sure the root end is down and the pointy end is up. I showed my niece and she did a perfect job.
BTW, I like to garden with my gloves off so I can feel the soil. This is not super friendly for pretty nails, so I wear them short!
With the garlic all in the holes, I filled them with soil and my niece patted them after me. We made a good team! Our rows aren’t super straight but they will do.
I bought about 10 bulbs and we got 4 rows of 29. I say ‘about’ 10 bulbs because yesterday my 14 year old was feeling like he was getting sick, so to keep healthy he took some garlic. He didn’t know this was planting garlic 🙂
Now all I’ve got to do is wait for the spring rains to wake the garlic up and get it growing. It is such a miracle and I never tire of seeing the green poking through the soil!
When the ground starts to dry up you will want to watch the moisture in your soil. When it starts to get dry on the top after the spring rains and it is warm enough that the ground is not freezing at night, you will want to water.
I use a pvc system we built and in the heat of the summer I water about 30 seconds to 1 minute a day with it. If the soil is moist on top I don’t water that day.
Any comments or questions? Let me know below!
Here is an update on the garlic. It has been a few weeks since I planted and look at how awesome they are looking! I love growing food!
See the yellow in the middle of that flower? It is a baby strawberry! We haven’t had to water the strawberries at all this year or really take care of them except to pull the mulch off them in the early Spring and give them some Mittleider weekly feed. It seems that such goodness should come with a much higher price. If you haven’t had a fresh strawberry you just can’t imagine the sweet perfect flavor. The under ripe, chemical laden excuse for strawberries in the stores pale in comparison. Oh how I am excited for strawberry season!
I have now planted the things that can be put in 2 weeks before the last Spring frost date. These include:
If you live where it is quite dry then you can put in Potatoes too. Where I live the rain still comes down quite frequently and the potatoes can rot before they sprout so I will wait a few weeks for them.
All of the seeds I started a few weeks ago are up and growing beautifully so now I start feeding them the natural Mittleider fertilizer mix once a week.(get it at www.growfood.com and learn how to use it HERE.) A few weeks ago I told you to get your micronutrients ordered and now is the time you will be using them.
I like to set aside one day a week (Mondays for me) to fertilize any garden plants that have sprouted. I stop doing this weekly feed when they are a few weeks from being mature. The fertilizer stays with them a few weeks so I don’t want to waste fertilizer on things I am going to be harvesting.
If I am fertilizing a 30′ x 18″ bed, once a week I will add 16 oz.(a soup can) of weekly feed to the bed near the roots of the plants. You don’t have to till it in or anything, just put in on the surface and when you water or it rains, the fertilizer will go into the soil. Messing up the surface of the soil and getting good contact with the fertilizer will actually help the fertilizer get into the soil better but it is not necessary.
In a 3×8′ bed put down 8 ounces (1 cup) of weekly feed).
As it warms up our plants will shoot up and we will be so grateful for the work we have put in!
Another thing to be doing right now is disturbing the soil in our garden beds. When you do this, weeds that have gotten started will be uprooted and won’t be able to grow. You are not disturbing your seedlings, but the rest of the soil. You aren’t watering the isles with this method of gardening so weeding will be kept to a minimum but to keep it even less, move your soil.
If you are growing straight in the soil, break down the sides of your garden beds and build them back up again to kill any weeds that have been germinating. You will be glad you took the time to do this. Eliminate the weeds while they are small and you will have much less work to do later.
These are the seeds you can start now(April 9th) if your last frost date is in 4 weeks. Our last frost date here in Erda is around May 3-9 depending on who you talk to. The state extension even has varying dates on the internet.
If you didn’t start your onions from seed a few months ago, your onions won’t get big bulbs if you plant them now but you could eat the greens still. If you want bulb onions then plant onion sets which are onions that someone already started for you. You can buy them at a home improvement store or a nursery.
Everything else can be planted as seeds.
I get so excited this time of year when the weather is mild enough that I can be outside without a heavy coat and dig in the beautiful loamy soil that is begging for something to grow in it! Before I can stick any seeds in the ground there are some steps I must take to make sure the growing plants have every advantage I can give them. Listed below are the steps I take to have a beautiful garden:)
1. First, I make sure the ground is tilled. I use this tiller. It has done big jobs and little ones beautifully for several years now.
If I am growing in a garden box I use my small Mantis tiller and make sure the soil or soilless mix I talk about HERE is an inch below the sides of the bed so the soil and water will stay in the box. If I am growing straight in the ground, I will mark off the rows and isles. I show how to do that HERE.
2. I make a pre plant mixture that will help my seeds germinate well and that will condition the soil(any soil). It is a mix of
a. 20 cups gypsum (we get it at Home Depot, or a home improvement store).
b. 1 cup epsom salt (you can buy this at the pharmacy).
c. 1/4 cup borax (you can find this in the laundry isle at the store).
When I have the pre plant mixture made, I store it in a bucket and use it as needed.
3. In a garden box measuring 3×8 feet I will put 16 oz. (an empty soup can) of this pre plant mixture into the bed and till it in. If my bed is directly in the soil, and I’m using the Mittleider method of 18″ beds by 30 feet long, I will till in 2 of the 16 ounce soup cans full of the pre plant mixture.
4.When the pre plant mixture is tilled in I then level the bed out so water won’t run off, form edges if the beds are directly in the soil, and water the bed heavily until it is soaked. This will help keep the seeds moist and keep the seeds from washing away on the first watering.
5. Now I mark where I’ll be putting the seeds. In an 18″ wide bed I’ll normally have two rows of seeds going down the length of the 30 foot bed. In a 3 foot wide bed I do 4 rows of seeds down the length. I show this HERE.
6. When the seed rows are marked and the bed is wet I am ready to plant. If the bed is clay soil and the water takes a long time to soak in I wait to plant until the water is well soaked in. Each seed will need its own planting depth and spacing. The rule of thumb is that you plant the seed 3x the thickness of the seed. So if a bean is 1/4″ thick you will plant it 3/4 ” deep. Usually the seed packet will tell you how deep to plant your seed.
7. Plant your seeds and if you have a good loamy soil, cover your seeds and lightly tamp the soil down so the seed has contact with the soil If your soil is clay you will not want to cover the seeds with the clay soil because it will tend to dry and form a crust which is hard for the growing seed to penetrate. In this case you will cover your seeds with sand. Also as your clay soil dries and cracks, fill the cracks with sand.
8. When your seeds are in the ground the next step is to keep them constantly moist but not swimming in water. If the weather is very hot or your soil is more sandy you will want to water several times a day. For small seeds like carrots and lettuce it is helpful to put down a layer of burlap cloth so when you water the seeds they don’t wash away, and so the seeds stay moist between waterings. The smaller seeds are closer to the surface and tend to dry out quicker making it harder to germinate them successfully. If your soil is clay you will not need to water as often because the water will be retained better. Just check the beds and get familiar with how quickly the top 1/2″ of soil dries out.
Congratulations if you follow the above steps. You are on your way to a fantastic garden and so am I 🙂
The next steps for gardening will require that you have an order of micronutrients ready along 25 pounds of 16-16-16 all purpose fertilizer. You can order your micronutrients at www.growfood.com. Tell them that Elisa sent you. 🙂