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Spring Gardening Ideas

Judy's daughter Laura planting onions seedlings in the garden

I love spring for all of the usual reasons, and also because spring is when my husband Jamie comes alive and becomes a garden planting ninja! This post is packed with spring gardening ideas. An incredible amount of food is produced each season inside our 60′ x 28′ greenhouse and in the many outdoor gardens surrounding our home, situated on just two acres! If you haven’t delved into this lifestyle yet I urge you to read on and dig right in.

Growing your own garden is a fantastic way to source vibrant food – you can pick and eat within the hour! Growing your own is also a way to counter the extra expense of eating clean. Consider planting veggie gardens, herb gardens, fruit trees, nut trees, and berry bushes for your own slice of paradise. We’ve been doing this for over 35 years; it’s a satisfying lifestyle with many benefits.

From Chronically Ill to Vibrantly well: recovery through a plant-based diet

Homemade Soil Blocks for Starting Plants

I recently bought Jamie the Mini 4 Soil Blocker, a cool garden gadget that makes blocks out of lightly compressed potting soil. These soil blocks are perfect for growing starter plants. When the seedlings are eventually transplanted into the garden the soil blocks are left intact. This makes the plants happy since their roots are barely disturbed.

Jamie’s garden adventures began this year in early March when he used this new tool to create roughly 150 soil blocks. He used these soil blocks to start several varieties of tomatoes (Hogheart, Black Prince, Amish Paste, Juliet, and Black Krim), several varieties of peppers (Sweet Pimento, Karlo Paprika, Carmen, and Jalapeño), and Italian eggplants. This is the first time Jamie tried this method, and it worked out really well! Here’s the recipe he used.

  • 75% aged compost
  • 20% peat moss
  • 5% aged chicken manure
Pepper seedlings growing in homemade soil blocks

Planting Onion Seeds

Jamie doesn’t use soil blocks for starting his onions; the onion seeds are tiny and it wouldn’t make sense to plant them that way. Jamie prefers to plant onion seeds in the large plastic boxes that washed greens are packaged in (sold in grocery stores). First he pokes holes into the bottoms of the boxes so they drain, and then he fills them with the same mixture described above or something similar. This year Jamie used two boxes to plant yellow onions and two boxes to start red onions. He sowed approximately 150 seeds into each box, about 600 seeds in total!

Keeping Starter Plants Warm

Some years Jamie begins his starter plants indoors under grow lights. Other years, liks this one, he starts them in the greenhouse. The temperatures are plenty warm during the day inside the greenhouse even in early spring. But at night the temperatures dip, so the seedlings need additional protection. Jamie put the seedling trays inside a plastic tent to provide an additional layer of protection against the cold, then he hung a light below the plants to provide warmth. During the day he opened the tent, when necessary, so the plants didn’t overheat and burn up.

Seedlings growing under plastic within a greenhouse with a light underneath the trays for warmth

Greenhouse Spring Crops

In addition to starting seedlings, March is also when Jamie planted cold loving crops (radishes, lettuces, broccoli rabe, and arugula) in the greenhouse, directly in the ground. As I explained in a previous post called Lettuce from Seed to Salad, he plants his greens close together and then we enjoy a very early spring crop as the young and tender greens are thinned out.

Here is an oak-shaped, semi-crisp leaf lettuce called Italienischer, one of our family favorites.

Sowing Seeds into the Outdoor Gardens

Now that spring is in full swing, Jamie’s pace has quadrupled and he’s been readying and planting the many outdoor gardens surrounding our home. So far he has sown seeds to grow green and red cabbages, carrots, beets, fava beans, tomatillos, green beans, peanuts, okra, lettuces, and sunflowers. More seeds will be planted in upcoming weeks. These include cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, rosemary, thyme, basil, cilantro, oregano, watercress, radicchio, and fennel seeds – and probably more. We buy most of our seeds in the winter through the Fedco Seeds catalogue.

In the foreground of this photo there is a watering can and a row of freshly planted and watered sunflowers. In the rear there is a row of onion seedlings planted in the garden.
Freshly planted and watered sunflowers are in the foreground. Onion seedlings are planted in the rear. Last year the sunflowers grew at least ten feet tall and were heavily laden with sunflower seeds. We saved some of them for ourselves instead of letting the birds eat them all – they were delicious! I hope this year’s crop is as impressive.
Summer of 2019

Jamie may also opt to sow a new parsley patch this spring. Our current patch is at least three years old. Even though we live in zone 5b, a cooler plant hardiness zone, we have encouraged the parsley to produce year round by protecting it with a row cover during the cold months.

Here is a glimpse of our overwintered parsley patch. Plastic is securely draped over the hoops in the winter to create a warm microclimate. When we want to pick parsley in the winter, we simply lift up the plastic.
Self-seeded lettuce is in the foreground.

Planting Potatoes

Last week Jamie planted about 30 pounds of seed potatoes including white, red, and purple varieties. He buys his seed potatoes from The Potato Lady catalogue; they arrive in labeled potato sacks. As you can see in the photo, he hangs these sacks over the row posts to remind him where each variety is planted. We strive to harvest and store about 100 pounds of potatoes in our make shift cold cellar (crawl space) each fall. They last throughout the winter and into the following spring.

Freshly planted rows of potatoes in the foreground. A patch of full grown parsley to the right and miscellaneous seedlings and seeds planted in the rear
Freshly planted rows of potatoes are in the foreground; the parsley patch is behind to the right. Last season several onions that were planted by the parsley never matured so they were left in the garden. Notice how they’ve come back to life. These overwintered onions will go to seed quickly though so won’t be fit to eat.
Can you spot the rows of pepper seedlings? Rows of miscellaneous seeds are also planted in the rear.

Transplanting the Onions and Other Starter Plants

Over Memorial Day weekend Jamie and our daughter Laura transplanted all of the starter plants, including the onions, from the greenhouse into the gardens. They planted about 300 yellow onion seedlings and about 130 red onions. We gave away the rest of the red onion seedlings since we ran out of garden space. Besides 430 onions is plenty! As with the potatoes, after harvest the onions will be stored in our make shift root cellar (crawl space). They’ll keep from fall until early next spring.

Jamie planting onion seedlings in garden

Planting Tip: Attach a string between two posts to mark off the row. This will make it easier to plant seeds or starter plants in a straight line.

The onion seedlings are planted shallow about six inches apart. Planting over 400 onion seedlings is a tedious job, so Jamie was grateful to have Laura’s help this season.

From front to back: peppers, tomatoes, onions, peppers

If you enjoyed these spring gardening ideas, you may also like Growing Herbs in Containers. How’s your garden growing? Feel free to leave a question or comment below.

4 Comments

  • Cathy McQuitty
    May 30, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    Wow!! I love just reading about this! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Judy DeLorenzo
      May 30, 2020 at 11:32 pm

      Hi Cathy – you’re welcome! Thanks for the feedback 🙂

      Reply
  • Wendy
    May 30, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    Every helpful. Thank you

    Reply
  • Judy DeLorenzo
    May 30, 2020 at 11:32 pm

    You’re welcome Wendy! Good luck with the onions. Let us know if you have any questions.

    Reply

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