Last week, I talked a little about how I used the Square Foot Gardening book to construct my raised garden beds. I then filled them with a mixture of peat moss, compost, and vermiculite. Once you have that done, it's time to plant!
First, you need to know in which zone you live so you know when you can sow certain seeds and plants. Different plants need different times in order to fully grow and produce and your area of the country may or may not have enough of a "growing season" to allow that. For example, peppers need a pretty long growing season with warm weather for a lot of that in order to produce. I am in zone 6a and I was introduced to this chart for our specific region of North Carolina. It gives you a guideline of what crops you can plant, when to plant, how far to put them apart (in traditional gardening), etc. I've found so far that it has been pretty accurate for me and if I've tried to grow something outside of the guidelines (for example, my failed attempt at growing broccoli in warm weather), it doesn't work. Some plants like cooler weather (peas, lettuce, kale, cabbage, etc), so you can plant them now and they will produce just in time for you to then replace them with a summer crop like squash or tomatoes. If you are in another area, most places have a cooperative extension agency or another agency that can give you tips on growing in your area.
So, with looking at this chart, I know that right now, I am going to plant my things that love cooler weather. We'll plant peas (directly from seed) and I purchased cabbage, kale, lettuce, onions, and rainbow chard at a local nursery to plant directly into the ground as young plants. This gives me some of those cool weather-loving veggies right now until I can plant my BIG garden in mid-late April!
Peas have been very easy for us to grow and are lots of fun! They are more of a fun crop for us because they don't really yield enough for preserving, but they are so enjoyable to grow. We love Mammoth Sugar Snap Peas-we eat them straight from the vine and they are such a sweet, crispy treat...they're addictive! Peas will need a trellis or something to grow up, so you will need something for that. I use the recommendation from the Square Foot Gardening book and built my own from metal poles and garden netting. My peas grew over 7 foot tall last year!
And here is a glimpse of more of our "cool weather" crops from last March. As a homeschooling mom, my kids do their own box and help build it, plan their garden, plant it, etc. For these, we put legs on them so they could be raised to waist height. Here are some of their boxes last year. They are so excited to plant their own again this year as soon as we know the threat of freezing is gone!
I'd love to hear if any of you start your own garden boxes! Next week, I'll give some other suggestions on places you can implement some garden boxes to take advantage of all of your space!