News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Tips for Spring garden planting

To plant a garden is to believe in the future. Believe those seeds will sprout and mature in reasonable time. Believe your effort will be rewarded. Believe, but be wise in helping it happen. 

The spring solstice signals time for new growth, time to plant for the growing season. The days will be getting longer, and hopefully warmer soon. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that we’ll see another hard freeze this season, so it is safe to plant most crops in a garden.

Transplants already grown to a healthy stage are available in garden stores. Although more expensive than planting seeds, direct planting of healthy starts that have been acclimatized to current temperatures will almost guarantee success. 

Direct sowing of seeds is less expensive (a whole package for the price of a pack of transplants), and will take two to four weeks longer to mature. If we believe in saving money for the future what do a couple of weeks matter? 

To germinate and grow seeds need moisture and warmth. Moisture is not a problem as (cold) spring rains continue. Soil temperature is the key to seed starting success. 

Cool season vegetables grown mostly in northern hemisphere and higher elevations, and most perennial flowers will sprout in soils as cool as 40of. Many perennial flower seeds are designed by nature to sit in cold damp soil for weeks or months before sprouting so if they are sown now their hormones will let them sprout when the soil temperature is right. 

Warm season vegetables that originate from closer to the equator, and more exotic flowers grown as annuals will not sprout until soil temperatures are warmer so they are often started indoors at 65-70of. in our short-season microclimate. Even transplants of tomatoes and peppers purchased at the garden store will not grow well until soil temperatures (and night air temperatures) are above 50of. Corn , cucumbers and melons will not thrive below 60of. So we usually wait until late May to plant them. 

Covering raised beds with row cover cloth, an old sheet, of a makeshift clear plastic tent will help raise the temperature of a patch of soil by capturing sunlight and blocking wind. Good drainage helps prevent drowning and rotting of seeds. Soil should feel like a wrung-out sponge.

Seed packets have directions for recommended planting times, depth and spacing. Usually seeds are sown no deeper that their diameter. Fertilizer is not required until after the second set of leaves appear indicating root development. When planting established seedlings space them to allow for the full-grown “footprint”. Plants do not reach their production potential when growing too close together, competing for light, water, air and nutrients. 

Slugs are actively seeking tender young plants for late-night dinner, so slug traps in the newly-planted bed will attract them to eat the bait instead of seedlings, we hope. OSU Extension has publications available to help: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog . 

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