Our garden is finally plowed and tilled. I’m working on making tomato cages out of strips of old fencing and figuring when I can go ahead and plant. This young lady weighs heavily on my mind.
See how she’s looking so longingly at my garden? She sees it the same way I do, as if it were already green and lush and heavy with produce. And she isn’t the only one. Cabbage moths, grasshoppers, hornworms, aphids and countless other pests, some of which are too small to even see, are all hanging out in the soil, the surrounding plants, the air and possibly on my transplants themselves waiting for their take of my harvest.
Winning the battle against these unwelcome intruders begins long before they are actually a problem, however. In fact, it begins before you even plant your first seeds. It begins by choosing the cultivars most appropriate for your area. That advice may be a little late for most of you, but it is never too early to start planning for next year.
How to choose the best plants for your area:
Decide what plants you want to grow.
Get to know your county extension’s website. All those glowing descriptions in the catalogs don’t mean half as much as a recommendation from someone whose job it is to compare the success of various cultivars in your area.
Know your USDA Hardiness Zone. Remember that this is only a general guide. Just because I’m in Zone 5 doesn’t mean everything labeled Zone 5 will survive a Nebraska summer. Or a Nebraska winter. Or the Nebraska wind.
Know your first and last frost dates. This is important for timely planting, but also for ensuring that your growing season is long enough for the plants you favor.
Know the microclimate of your area and where your garden will be located. Is it on a south facing slope or near a warming structure such as a retaining wall or the house? You may be looking at plants normally grown a little further to the south.
Know your soil. Is it clay? Sandy loam? Full of rocks? Is it acidic, neutral or a little alkaline?
Watch your garden and see how many hours of sun it gets. Is it enough for the sun loving tomatoes you crave? Do you have a little shade to help keep your lettuce going longer into early summer?
Know how many freeze hours are typical for your area. This is really only relevant if you are interested in fruit trees.
Choose disease resistant varieties.
Be willing to change your garden plans. We had our hearts set on blueberries, but according to our research, there just aren’t any good cultivars for our area. They require too much soil amendment and about the only way to grow them is in a container buried in the ground. That sounds like a plan for years of fighting against nature to maintain an ill-suited plant.
If you look beyond national chain stores, you will find a wealth of cultivars allowing you to grow your favorite garden vegetables in a wide variety of climates and soil conditions. As you learn more about your area, you may even find plants you had never considered before.
The most important thing to remember in organic gardening is to work with the local environment as much as possible rather than against it.
For more in this series on beginning organic gardening, just click on the button. And please share your gardening experiences! How did you select your plants? Where are your favorite places to purchase seeds and young plants?