Gardeners who like to grow their own food have been waiting for this: the time we are sure that spring is surely here, and there’s no danger of a late frost. We can finally – finally! – get those warm-season veggies in the ground.
And as Earth Week rolls along (leading up to the worldwide observation of Earth Day, April 22), the Gardens of Babylon Garden Center – which has been helping gardens and gardeners grow for 19 springs now – has a good variety of our summer-garden favorites, ready as healthy transplants to go in the ground right now.
If you’re an experienced gardener, you know what to do: dig a hole in the good soil, ease the transplant’s root ball out of its nursery pot and tuck it into the hole, pack in enough soil to fill the hole firmly around the root ball, add water. As the plants grow, provide the moisture they need; that’s usually about an inch of water a week, either provided by you, with a hose or sprinkler, or by Mother Nature.
But beginning gardeners may appreciate a little more direction, so here are best practices for planting and harvesting a selection of summer kitchen-garden favorites:
Plant tomato transplants deep enough to completely cover the root ball. Transplants that have grown tall and leggy can be planted even deeper, which allows the plant to develop roots along the buried stem. Leave enough space between plants – 18 to 24 inches — for them to grow and spread. Tomato plants need to be staked or supported in cages to keep the plants and their fruit off the ground, and it’s best to install those at planting time to avoid damaging the plant’s roots later. As the plant grows, you may want to remove suckers – secondary shoots that grow in the joint between a branch and the stem – to reduce the overall sprawl of the plant.
All types of pepper plants – hot, sweet, bell, jalapeño and others – are fairly easy to grow, given a spot with full sun and well-drained soil. Don’t plant pepper transplants too deep, but set them at the same depth they were growing in their nursery pots. Give each plant about 15 inches of space around it. Peppers can be affected by blossom end rot, which is a brown patch that appears at the bottom of the fruit. Wet or cold weather or lack of calcium may be the cause.
Zucchini and other vining squashes:
These need lots of sun, but what beginning gardeners sometimes don’t realize is that they also need lots of space! Given freedom on the ground, they will ramble over everything else planted nearby. The good news is that you can train these vines to grow vertically on a trellis. Summer squash and zucchini are also notorious for growing quickly into giants, so once they start to produce, harvest often. Summer yellow squash and zucchini are just about perfect at 6 to 8 inches long. Scalloped varieties, such as patty pan, are best harvested when they reach about 4 inches in diameter.
This is another vining plant that can take advantage of any vertical space in your kitchen beds, though there are also bush types that can grow in containers. Set transplants in the garden 2 to 3 feet apart, planting them at the same depth they grew in their pots. Cucumber plants also grow quickly from seed planted directly in the ground, following directions on the package. As they grow, the vines will attach themselves by delicate tendrils to whatever support you provide – or to other nearby plants if they’re too close. Harvest cukes before they begin to turn yellow.
If you don’t grow any other edibles in your garden, at least plant a few herbs. Basil, parsley and dill are summer favorites. Rosemary, sage, thyme, chives and oregano are the longer-lasting, perennial or tender perennial herbs that are among the mainstays. Any of them can be found as easy-to-grow transplants. All appreciate full sun but most will grow satisfactorily in lightly shaded conditions. Set transplants as you would any of the vegetables – carefully slide the root ball out of its pot, set it into the hole you’ve scooped out, and pack the soil back in with the plant at the same depth it was growing in the pot. Add water, and enjoy fresh herbs along with your other fresh produce from now until the first fall frost — or beyond, for those hardier herbs in the garden.
Celebrate Earth Day
Earth Day was established in the U.S. in 1970 to bring awareness of the link between the environment and the health of the planet. For 19 years, Gardens of Babylon has had as its mission the renewing of our connection with Nature, with products and services that are eco-friendly and sustainable. “This year has seen the birth of our natural lawn department, which certainly goes along with our company’s mission,” says Matt Kerske, whose family founded the company almost two decades ago.
Here’s a reminder that Gardens of Babylon will observe Earth Day, April 22, at the Night Market with events that include an Earth Day Giveaway with The Bookshop. To stay informed about other Earth Month and Earth Day events, follow Gardens of Babylon on Facebook and Instagram.
Visit the Gardens of Babylon Garden Center to pick up vegetable and herb transplants for your summer garden, as well as the annuals, perennials, groundcovers, houseplants, containers, garden soil, planting mix, gloves, hand tools – everything you need to enjoy your garden this summer.