By Natali Steinberg
In these trying times, what could be better for your mental and physical health than getting outside with the family, enjoying fresh air, and noticing the first signs of spring? Whether you’re on a trail or in your yard, looking for what plants are coming up can cheer you up and give you a sense that Mother Nature is normal, even if the world around us isn’t.
Now is the time to start planning for our gardens. Whether you are a first-time gardener or an experienced one, the act of growing your own food or flowers is an exciting and rewarding process. Having a vegetable garden provides new insight into our food system, is a sustainable and inexpensive way to access high-quality food, and is a lot of fun!
Take inventory of what you’d like to plant this year and note what should be started from seed indoors to transplant outside later and what should be directly seeded in your garden. Planning your garden can be one of the most fun parts of the process. Make a list of the vegetables or flowers you want to grow and sketch out your spring garden.
Now is a good time to check out your soil. Does it need humus (the result of composting) to break up the hard clay, provide some organic matter, and be nice and loamy? The hardware stores are open and carrying whatever you need to get started. Petree Garden Center in Los Alamos is offering curbside pickup and delivery services. Metzger’s Hardware Store also remains open. At this time, it is good idea to call your favorite nursery in advance to ensure that they are open.
If perennial flowers are in stock, April and early May is a good time to plant them. Getting these plants in the ground in the spring will allow them to become more established before the hot days of summer arrive.
You can start your annual flowers and cold weather veggies like kale and lettuce inside in a sunny window or under a grow light now. They should be ready to plant outdoors after Mother’s Day when the danger of frost is over. Be sure to use a sterile seed starting mix rather than potting soil. Seeds started indoors in garden soil or potting soil are subject to a fungal disease called damping off. It usually hits when your seedlings have two or four true leaves, and it causes the stem to fall over at soil level.
You’ll want to plant carrots, radishes, beets, and peas directly in the ground from seed. Be sure to follow planting instructions on the seed packets. This guide from the Old Farmer’s Almanac provides a general guide for when to plant different vegetables for our region.
If you’re not sure how much of one vegetable to plant in your garden, this guide from The Spruce gives a general idea for a family of four. Of course, the numbers depend on how much you plan to depend on your garden for food, how much space you have, and your own family’s favorite vegetables and preferences.
Aren’t we lucky, right now, to be living in such an isolated and marvelous community? Purchasing groceries can be somewhat of a chore, but we have the uncrowded trails to walk and our yards to give us rewarding times in the garden. Even sifting soil through your fingers can feel rejuvenating while it dirties your fingernails!