Ready….Set….Plant!

Spring has finally sprung!

So we in Vancouver have been pretty cooped up indoors lately since it’s been raining non-stop for what feels like FOREVER! However, today I looked outside and hope started rising up from my belly. I didn’t want to think it, let alone say it, but it seemed there was a distinct chance that it might not rain!

And so far, it hasn’t. What could be better? The sun actually showed its face for a brief few moments. You will never know the pleasure of the sun on your face unless you live somewhere where you don’t see it for a while and then all of a sudden…out it comes! Glorious!!

So what did I do with my brief few minutes with no rain and small bit of sunshine? I started planting! That’s right folks, it’s planting season and I’m raring to go.

It’s spring. And what can you plant in the spring when the weather is past frost but not yet hot?? Lettuce!!

If you’ve ever had a heaping bowl of delicious greens with nuts and fruits and other veggies…oh my, then you have to plant some in your garden. I haven’t ever tried lettuce in my garden before, mostly because I was scared of the slugs. But I’m going to try this year for three big reasons:

  1. I want to eat more fresh foods that are from as close to home as possible,
  2. I want to know what’s going onto and into my foods,
  3. I think that home-gardening is super cool and am always jealous when other people have the motivation and devotion to do it and I don’t.

I mean, aside from the pettiness they’re pretty good reasons, don’t you think? I love knowing that I’m taking a step towards changing the system of buying from box stores, as well as improving my health by eating a range of delicious and gorgeous vegetables. I have no problem with buying from farmers markets, and promote it if you don’t have the space, time, or inclination to start your own edible garden. I supplement a lot during the spring and summer from farmers markets because I can’t grow everything I need. I suggest when you head out to your local farmers market, try talking to the people at the stalls and ask them about how the produce was grown (is it organic? What kinds of fertilizers/compost do they use?). I’m sure almost all of them love to be asked and want to tell you whatever it is you want to know. Farm to table, right? Or better yet, back yard to table!!

For those of you who think you don’t have a green thumb, it’s complete rubbish. You have the ability to create a fantastic, green, lush garden as much as anybody else does. I’m excited to start planting with everyone and obviously would love tips too. I’m sure I’ll be annoyed at various pests as the spring and summer continue, so if you have problems or solutions, let me know and we can all help each other.

Here is a basic guideline for those of you who haven’t planted before or aren’t sure you’re been doing the right thing. Gardening is not about doing everything right, so don’t be scared to make mistakes! I do all the time. Plants can be very forgiving.

Spring Planting

Step 1: Buy plants

I chose to plant the following types of lettuce shown in the picture above:

  • Butter lettuce (top right)
  • French Crisphead (middle right)
  • Swiss Chard (top left)
  • Mesculin Mix (bottom left)
  • Cauliflower (not technically a lettuce, but whatever) (middle left)

 Lettuce Mix 2

Step 2: Ready the soil

Regardless of if you’re planting in pots/containers or in beds, it’s good to make sure you have enough soil to plant in and that it’s of a good enough quality that the plants will grow. How do you know if they’re like your stuff? Well, as long as it’s not a high-clay soil you’re probably ok. A high-clay soil will be hard and will crack when dry. If you don’t know if your soil has what it takes, I would suggest just taking a sample of it to your local garden store and ask them. Otherwise, if you are too lazy to check or know your soil is fine, just aerate it a bit and reduce the compaction of the soil from over-wintering. I just aerated the top few inches of mine using a spade and mixed a little bit of compost with the soil at the same time. This may not be necessary for everyone, but I had some to use.

Digging the soil

My soil was quite wet still, given all the rain, but I’m pretty unconcerned because I’m just that kind of gardener. I feel like if I try too hard then everything is bound to die. My motto is – Just let the plants figure it out.

Step 3: Plant configuration

I would suggest at this point trying to figure out how you’re going to organize your garden. Will you put your vegetables in rows or just plant them willy-nilly? Just remember, when it comes to underground veggies that you can’t see (for example, beets, carrots, potatoes, etc.) unless you’re familiar with their leaves, you may end up not knowing what everything is. But if you’re in it for the surprise, go ahead and plant however you want! Just remember, most plants require some breathing room, so try not to plant them right next to each other unless you know you can. In most cases, the spacing requirements for each plant can be found on the plastic label specifying the name and details of the plant.

Perpetual Flow - Planting Lettuce

 A lot of people actually take the plants out of the containers while ‘planning’ to ensure they’re spaced evenly, OCD, blah, blah. But obviously not me!!

Step 4: Plant

It’s pretty simple I think. Dig hole, plant the plant. I know that some of you may be confused about if you should be planting the entire little container square of soil in one hole or not and here’s the simple answer. Generally, each stalk should be planted in it’s own hole. Each stalk will be it’s own little carrot or onion or swish chard plant and you don’t want them to grow up claustrophobic beside each other, potentially stunting their growth. I’ll get more into that when I start planting those veggies though. For this post, I’ll stick to mostly lettuce.

Perpetual Flow - Digging a hole

Another question that you might be wondering is how big do I make the hole? Well, I usually just make it as deep as the soil cube the plant is in so that the top of the veggie soil is flush with the soil of the bed. You don’t want to cover up their leaves as they need those for photosynthesis!

Step 5: Water and love your garden

Big, important step here. Don’t forget about your garden. Lettuce leaves will be ready for picking in a few weeks, but before that point you have to ensure they haven’t been gorged on by slugs, snails, aphids, and other little animals. I know this frustrates me every year so we’ll see how things go.

 Perpetual Flow - Finally done!

Remember, you don’t have to wait for one plant to be the size you’d find at a grocery store before taking leaves from it to eat.

So get out there, put on some gardening gloves, and get dirty!

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