When should you mulch, spring or fall?
All beds should be mulched all the time. This includes flowers, vegetables and herbs. Replenishing the mulch can happen at any time. There are a lot of rules that folks apply to mulching, but if your beds are properly mulched all the time, it doesn’t matter when you renew, touch up or simply add mulch after planting.
Are there some seeds that need to be soaked before planting, such as spinach and nasturtiums?
The reason to soak a given seed is to allow the hull of the seed to become completely hydrated with water. For a seed to develop into a healthy plant it has to have adequate moisture. When a seed is planted in soil it must compete for existing moisture, so soaking gives it a healthier and easier start. Which seeds to soak? Seeds with hard hulls benefit the most, such as Morning Glories, Sweet Peas, Bells of Ireland, and others. If in doubt, try it and see if you get better germination with or without soaking. How to soak? Place the seeds in about 3” of lukewarm water and leave for 24 hours. How do you know when they are ready to plant? When they have swollen a little, become soft and appear a little lighter in color.
What are some of the best plants to attract beneficial bugs?
As they say, if you plant it, they will come, and it is really as simple as that. I find a couple of key ingredients to attracting and maintaining beneficial bugs on our farm: growing plants that provide food for them and providing places for them to raise babies and to live during the winter. Flowers that have tiny flowers in clusters are preferred by the good guys: yarrows, dill, Queen Anne’s Lace-type flowers, and Bupleurum. We had a patch of Coronation Gold Yarrow for years that we called our good bug playpen. It was loaded with lots of different types of beneficial larva and adults that could entertain for hours! Providing an area that is permanent year round is how you keep them once they have come.
When do you start seeds inside for spring, summer and fall planting?
I believe this is the million dollar question for most folks. It is true for me with vegetables because I am not as familiar with their personal growing preferences as I am with flowers. I will offer a general guide that I follow and will expand on it in a blog post in the coming weeks. In general, seeds should be started 3-8 weeks before you’d like to plant them outdoors in the garden. This lead time depends on the method of seed-starting used and the environment you are starting them in because this all effects how fast they grow. For this reference, spring planting refers to those plants that like it cool to cold to become established and thrive. Summer planting is for those heat lovers that go all summer. Fall planting, again, is for those plants that thrive in cool/cold conditions and winter over to bloom the following spring. We plant spring planting 6-8 weeks before our last frost, summer planting 1-2 weeks after our last frost date through July, and fall plantings 6-8 weeks before our first frost date.