Tired of the cold? Longing for warmer temperatures? You can actually allow yourself to “think spring.” It’s time to begin planning your outdoor summer garden…indoors!
If you want to get a jump on the growing season, there are a number of garden vegetables that you can sow indoors, undercover, beginning in mid-March. At the appropriate time, the vegetables can then be transplanted into your outdoor garden. By starting vegetables indoors, you usually gain 4 to 6 weeks over crops started by seed in the ground. Another benefit – it’s less expensive to grow your own plants than it is to buy more established seedlings at planting time.
The best plants for an early start are those which tolerate root disturbance including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, leeks, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, and tomatoes. Seeds are typically easier to start indoors than outdoors, as you have more control of the growing conditions.
For some suggestions and advice on growing indoors, check out this website:
The USDA, or the United States Department of Agriculture, provides a Plant Hardiness Zone Map. It is the standard by which gardeners and growers determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a certain location. The planting and growing season in Zone 6 ranges from mid-March (after the last frost) through mid-November, which is considerably lengthy. Most of Ohio falls in zone 6; the majority of Northeast Ohio is in Zone 6a. (This means the coldest the area gets is between -5 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit.) So what exactly does that mean to a Northeast Ohio gardener? To get a more accurate breakdown, we recommend you visit the USDA website —http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ or check out this article which was published shortly after the hardiness zone map was updated by the USDA — http://www.cleveland.com/insideout/index.ssf/2012/02/what_new_hardiness_zone_means.html.
So what perennials are suited for Zone 6? Gardeners and growers need to be aware that the weather in this area can abruptly change, which all of us are accustomed to – it can be 80 degrees and drop to 40 degrees the very next day! Only in Cleveland, right!?! Despite the temperature swings, it’s actually a very favorable environment – a long growing season complimented by generally mild temperatures.
For a through list of flowers, fruits, vegetables, trees and shrubs that thrive in our hardiness zone, please review the information on this site: http://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Gardening_Zone_6. You’ll quickly see that we have an assortment of perennials to choose from, keeping our gardeners and growers busy all year long!
Love a nutritious, fresh salad? Consider growing a salad garden next season. It doesn’t require a lot of space – a small 4′ x 4′ or 4′ x 8′ raised bed is plenty of room to grow a great salad garden! In just a few easy steps, you can be on your way to having your own salad garden. Given the fall season is rapidly approaching, you can use the winter months to spend a little time researching and planning for your spring plant.
One of the best things about having a backyard garden is that you have the flexibility of growing what you enjoy eating the most. You can also control exactly how the vegetables are grown; maintaining a strictly organic environment if that is important to you.
Helpful resources in setting up your salad garden design can be found at www.GrowVeg.com. (You can give it a try for a 30-day free trial.) GrowVeg is simple to use and easily creates vegetable garden plans and lists. For example, using the planning tool, you can get all of this in a four foot square salad garden— one cucumber plant, one tomato plant, one bell pepper or other pepper plant, two lettuce plants, two baby spinach plants, one arugula plant, five Radishes, and three onions. That’s quite an assortment of fresh options and enough to provide a good amount of healthy ingredients!
The end result is worth the effort. Sure, you can run to the grocery store to purchase all of the items you need for a dinner salad, but by investing some time and patience, you can grow it all at home for a fraction of the cost.
What is companion planting? Scientifically speaking, companion planting encompasses a number of strategies that increase the biodiversity of agricultural ecosystems (or, your garden). In simple terms, it’s the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted in near proximity. Advantages include attracting beneficial insects; repelling pests; deer control; the production of higher and healthier yields; and providing nutrients, shade, or support for surrounding vegetation. This method of planting employs an organic gardening strategy. The goal is to achieve a balance in the garden to avoid the use of chemicals for pest or disease control.
We looked to the Farmers’ Almanac for some simple starter companion planting suggestions:
• Beans work with just about everything. Plant them next to tomatoes or spinach.
• Place a small amount of horseradish near your potatoes to increase the disease resistance. Replenish as necessary.
• Summer cornfields can be converted to pumpkin fields.
• Developed by Native Americans, the “three sisters” method consists of growing corn, beans, and pumpkins (or squash) on the same mound. The corn provides a good pole for the beans to grow up, the beans trap nitrogen in the soil which benefits the pumpkins, and the pumpkins provide a dense foliage and ground cover to suppress weeds and keep pests at bay.
• Pumpkins work well as a row crop planted in close proximity to sunflowers, also a row crop.
• Plant healthy nasturtium near squash to help ward off squash vine borers. (Nasturtium is an easy-to-grow annual whose leaves and flowers are edible.)
• Use sweet marjoram in your beds and gardens to sweeten the taste of vegetables and herbs. (Marjoram is a rich, sweet tasting herb that is used interchangeably with oregano.)
For a more in-depth planting guide, we suggest this website:
We’re seeing container gardening growing more and more popular, especially in urban areas and in apartments and condos, and one of the cooler applications we’ve seen that works as well in the country as it does in the city is trough gardening.
As you may have gathered from the name, trough gardens use animal watering troughs as a container for either part or all of a garden. These vary in size from roughly 2×4 feet for less than $100 to 8 feet and longer for hundreds of dollars. While oblong troughs seem to be the most popular option, several round troughs of different sizes can be stacked to create a unique “wedding cake” design garden. Troughs are available at every farm and feed supply store and can often be found used at farm sales or on craigslist as well.
Trough gardens are a rare combination of practical and unexpected, urban and rural, and industrial and agricultural. The troughs are galvanized steel, giving them an industrial look, but anyone who looks at one will know exactly what it is and know that they’ve seen one on a farm.
Because watering troughs are meant to hold water, they stand up to the elements incredibly well and always look great while being pretty much indestructable. Like most container gardens, they will keep burrowing animals out of your garden (at least from the bottom), and if they are over 3 feet tall, they will also keep rabbits away from your plants.
The rules of regular container gardening apply to trough gardens. Make sure you drill holes for adequate drainage in the bottom of your trough. If you have concerns about pests entering through the holes, it’s a good idea to line the bottom of the trough with a mesh to make it more difficult for them to get in.
Make sure the bottom 3-6 inches of your trough is filled with gravel to ensure adequate drainage. Soil pushing down into drain holes tends to not allow water to flow out. Based on the size of your trough, the depth of soil needed for your desired plants, and if you plan to move the trough, you may want to fill some of the space above the gravel up with a light but neutral substance. Scrap chunks of styrofoam work surprisingly well for this. Make sure your final layer of soil has adequate organic material such as peat moss or compost.
Remember that all container gardens, including troughs, need more careful regulation of moisture than a regular garden in the ground. Check daily to make sure that the soil has adequate water, but at the same time, don’t drown your container. Very few plants enjoy having their roots swim in standing water.
Trough gardening is a great way to create a unique garden in a nearly indestructible container with a wide variety of size options. Follow our tips above, and yours will be in full bloom in no time.
As a leading supplier of garden and landscaping supplies, we at Three Z Supply love and support the Cleveland Botanical Garden, one of the greatest gems in Northeast Ohio.
The Botanical Garden features 10 distinct outdoor gardens, including a children’s exploration garden, a herb garden, a japanese garden, and rose and topiary gardens. Most are open year-round, though of course the best displays are in the warmer months.
Once the weather turns colder and we don’t really want to spend long hours in our gardens, we’re happy that we can always head to the Botanical Garden’s Glasshouse and be surrounded by beautiful flowers and plants. The Glasshouse offers an escape from the cold into the desert of Madagascar and the rainforest of Costa Rica, featuring exotic plant life from both areas. Darting chameleons and a daily butterfly release add to the sense of being transported out of Northeast Ohio just by stepping through the Glasshouse doors.
The Botanical Garden also features a full calendar of events, from weekends celebrating the first blooms of spring at “Big Spring,” to the annual “Ripe!” harvest festival featuring local produce and chefs, to the stunning Orchid show that is presented every February.
Of course, every December the Garden presents “Glow in the Garden” featuring holiday plants, decorated evergreens, and a gingerbread competition that always surprises with fun and complex gingerbread creations.
We also love their Garden Store, which is a perfect place to shop for one-of-a-kind items for any gardener on your list. Or for yourself. We won’t tell.
The Cleveland Botanical Garden is located on East Boulevard in Cleveland’s University Circle. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, with evening hours on Wednesday and during special events (such as the holiday “Glow in the Garden” event). We encourage you to become a member for free admission and to support the Garden. More information is available at www.cbgarden.org.