Larry Jones is director of the Independence Health Department.
In this tough economic time, a good source of fresh fruits and vegetables is at your fingertips.
Using your time to grow your own fresh produce is both rewarding and a good investment of your time. Packets of seed will last through several growing seasons. February is quickly coming to an end and warm weather is close at hand. So, now is a time to get ready for spring.
Take a step outside your house and really look at your yard. Plan your garden. Spend some time thinking about where you want your garden, what plants you would like, and how many you want to plant.
Most gardens require sun so look for a sunny space that is convenient for you. Make sure your garden spot also has access to water.
If you are unable to get down on your knees, think about constructing a raised bed or doing a container garden. Container gardens can be planted in anything that is sitting around that is not being used. This can include flower pots, wagons, half barrels, wheel barrels, or you can make boxes from unused lumber or concrete blocks.
Container gardens are both useful and anything that grows in the ground can grow in a raised bed or container garden. There are several advantages.
These raised gardens require less walking and stooping and offer garden possibilities where planting would be impossible. Since our soil is clay, raised beds offer better drainage for roots.
Better root growth leads to higher yields. Just remember that raised beds dry out more quickly so you may need to water more often.
If you build a raised bed from lumber or concrete blocks, it is best to keep the width at four feet to avoid having to reach beyond your ability.
If the bed is accessible from only one side, keep the width at 3 feet. The length of the bed is not critical. Most plants need 6 to 12 inches for the roots. Many old decking boards are eight inches. That is sufficient for most plants.
Starting your garden from seeds is a great way to spend your time in February. Many long season vegetables need to be started indoors. You can start seeds in egg cartons, old glasses, plastic packs or other divided materials.
Old ice trays are convenient. Make sure to label what seeds are in each container. Seeds should be planted – to – inch below the soil for good germination. Set your containers in a window facing south, and water as needed keeping the soil moist but not soggy.
There are several vegetables that are best suited for transplanting. Beans, cucumbers eggplant, lettuce, onions, parsley, pepper, radish, squash, and tomatoes are great to start indoors.
When the first three leaves show, transplant into a larger container such as a flower pot. Cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, potatoes, peas, spinach, and beets can be planted in containers outside beginning the middle of March.
For fresh produce, growing your own can be a very satisfying experience.