If you are like me, one day mid spring you realize, “Hey! I better plant my garden.” My technique then involves buying way too many seed packets than I can fit in my plot and flinging them in to the least weedy patches. The seeds, if they come up, get to go head to head with what ever weed seeds are already growing, further reducing my chances for productive happy plants. My more organized friends started lovely trays of eager seedlings weeks ago in sunny windows, that they will tuck into place exactly where they want them. This involves planning. What a concept!
Curl up with a bunch of seed catalogs, or peruse the internet to begin your research. This is the gardner’s version of Christmas shopping for relatives. Your imagined reaction to the gifts you have painstakingly selected may be richer then the reality. No matter-Dreaming can be fun!

1) Grab an old notebook or treat yourself to a blank journal to begin your musings on what will sprout in your 2011 garden. Draw thumb-nail sketches of your yard and plan what
(ideally) you’d like to see growing there.
2) Order or purchase your seeds. Note the plant date for your region. Make a “When to plant calendar” section in your journal,
counting backwards a few weeks so your seedlings will be several inches along when you transfer them to your outside garden.
Start your seed trays. 3) Note the best growing conditions (examples: needs sunlight, well drained soil, or shade) Plan the optimum placement for each plant to take advantage of the conditions.

4) Prepare your garden. You can knock back weeds by covering the ground with opaque coverings like old rugs or tarps to discourage growth in the area. Before you plant, mix in the compost, purchased or made on-site. Organic matter is universally accepted to aid nearly every soil type, including its texture and water/nutrient-retaining capacity. Addition of organic matter also encourages the growth of living organisms. These organisms further enrich the soil with natural nutrients and help in the even distribution of nutritional elements. It is always better to get the garden soil tested annually to get a precise estimate regarding the nutritional quality of the soil. This can be done through your local cooperative extension or purchase a soil testing kit from a garden supply store.

For great info pertinant to our area tune into Delmarva Gardens, hosted by Ginny Rosenkranz, a commercial horticulture extension specialist with the University of
Maryland Cooperative Extension. You can catch monthly episodes Saturdays at 9:00 am on Public Access Channel 14.

STEAL these ideas!

egg shells & egg cartons to use for your spring seedling trays. To Make Eggshell Seed-Starting Pots
1. Crack the tips off several eggshells, reserving the eggs for cooking. Wash/rinse egg shells, prick small drainage holes in the base of each shell with a pin and replace in egg cartons until you wish to use them.
A few weeks before the regional plant/date for your seeds, fill shells with a light soil mixture and one or two seeds. Keep moist and warm.
2) Use a sharpy to label which seeds are in what eggs. This is a real luxury. Try to limit your seed/plant count to the size carton you are using, save the extra seeds for 2nd & 3rd wave plantings so you have produce throughout the summer and early fall.
3). When seedlings have reached a suitable size, plant them directly in the ground, crushing the shell so the roots can emerge.
The egg shells are valuable compost in the soil.

Toilet Paper Tubes: Smoosh a toilet paper tube flat then cut 4 slits on one end about 1 inch long. Un-smoosh the tube and fit the 4 flaps you just created to form a bottom. Fill with potting soil and sit in a tray and start your seedlings. ALSO cut in half and use to protect your Brassica seedlings (cauliflower, broccoli, or anything in the cabbage family) from cut worms buy placing 1/2 tube around newly planted seedlings. BONUS the toilet paper tube will bio-degrade into your garden eventually.

Plastic knives: Use a sharpy to write on them to label your plants and seeds.

Old Shower Curtains: great for moving mature plants, or soil.

Clear plastic clam shell type containers:
Reuse the clamshell packaging for muffins and such by poking a drainage hole in the bottom, filling with potting soil and planting seeds in these. Once done, close the top down and you have an instant mini greenhouse. If it gets too warm, simply open the lid. When the plants get large enough, you can transplant them to the garden, rinse out the makeshift greenhouse and store it away for next year.

Old pop cans: Use these in the bottoms of your planters or containers. If you fill the bottom third of a container with slightly bent / crushed pop cans, you can use less potting soil when planting. This will give you a lighter pot when finished and costs less per pot. The cans allow space at the bottom of the pot for drainage, so there is no need to keep a supply of gravel for this purpose either.

Empty plastic pop bottles:
Make a drip water system for hard to water plants. Leaving the cap on the bottle, pierce a small hole in the bottom, you can create a drip system. You may even mix up a compost “tea” to help fertilize the area. Loosen the cap just enough for the water to flow out slowly.