I love having a little garden in my backyard to supplement my summer vegetables that I get from the farmers markets and my CSA share. There’s nothing like picking a sun-warmed tomato for a little snack or using freshly plucked herbs for a recipe. But I am too busy to start and care for my plants from seed so I purchase transplants from local farmers.
I reached out to Sam Marlow, the plant sale manager at Roots to River Farm in Solebury to ask her for her best transplant and gardening tips, she was kind enough to share some time with me in between watering the transplants in the greenhouse.
Sam has some great tips to apply from farm fields to your home garden:
- Transplants are also called plant starts.
- Make sure your plants do not get root bound in their container. It is a great idea to move them into a bigger pot so their roots can grow. You can even put multiple plants in a bigger pot.
- Plant your transplants when the weather is right:
- Cold weather plants (like kale and broccoli) can go into the ground; they can handle light frosts. you may cover them if it is going to frost.
- Wait until AT LEAST Mother’s Day to avoid the frost for the cold and frost sensitive plants, depending on the year. Wait until the soil temperature is over 55F or above before planting
- When your cold weather plants are covered in frost, DO NOT TOUCH your plants. This damages them. Undisturbed, they usually thaw out without damage.
- Hudson Valley Seed Company has a great (and pretty!) planting guide
- Veggie plants want lots of light. You can leave your young plant starts in their pots outside, just be sure to bring them in during cold weather.
- Greens can handle colder weather.
- Tomato, basil, eggplant, peppers do not like the cold.
- Remove tomato and pepper flowers when the plants are in their small pots, and even the first round of flowers once in the ground – this will help the plant put on growth before trying to set fruit, leading to a happy healthier plants.
Our farmers have you covered! The following will have transplants at the market this May:
Wrightstown Farmers Market
– Blooming Glen Farm
– Milk House Farm
– Rolling Hills Farm
– Roots to River Farm (pre-order online)
Doylestown Farmers Market
– Love Grows
– Spring Creek Farm
– Wildemore Farm
“work with what you have, you can improve it every year!”
- What you have in your beds or containers is a great start! Think about adding compost or compost tea (which helps stretch out your compost supply) to add nutrients and organic matter to your soil. Kona Compost recommends using the compost tea as foliar spray in the early morning so the plant doesn’t get burned by the sun.
- If you are working with a heavy clay type soil, topping your beds off with compost and organic matter (such as fallen leaves – make friends with your neighbors and ask for their leaves).
- Note the difference between fertilizer and compost – fertilizer will add nutrients, but compost will increase nutrients AND organic matter, improving your soil.
- You can get organic compost from Kona Compost, BC Compost, and most gardening stores.
- Bare soil is not happy. Sam recommends adding a layer of compost, then 2 layers of newspaper, then a layer of (undyed) mulch. This method helps keep the weeds down, and stops soil from splashing up on your plants. Mulch can be fall leaves!
- Do not plant the same thing year after year in the same spot! Plants utilize nutrients differently. Repetition can deplete specific nutrients in your soil and foster pest & disease cycles in your garden.
How to set up your beds (not to scale):
“not too much, not too little”
- Water the soil! Wet leaves can introduce disease, so it’s important to water around the base of the plant, and not the plant itself.
- Cool water on the roots is a great way to cool the plant in hot weather.
- Do not water at night. (Would you want to go to bed with wet feet?) A good morning soak is great.
- Consider soaker hoses, or modifying an old garden hose (poke holes in the bottom).
“air flow, air flow, air flow”
- Plants need space and air flow, spreading them out helps to prevent disease and gives them the room they need to grow.
- Consider companion planting. If you want to learn more, Sam recommends the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Riotte, available from the Bucks County Library!
- Don’t be afraid to get creative! You can be traditional or try new things. You can always supplement at the farmers market or your CSA share.
- Start a garden calendar or journal – track when and what you plant, when things flower, and when you see bugs. It’s very hard to remember what you did a whole year ago.
- Diversity is your friend! Plant different types of plants such as basil next to tomatoes. Different plants will bring different pollinators, give a home for predatory bugs (who eat your pests), can help with fertility and more.
- Get to know your weeds! Some are edible (& delicious), some can help your soil, and some, you’ll just want to remove.
- Weeds can tell you a lot about your soil nutrients.
- Before your weeds go to seed, you can chop them at the base and leave them in your bed or put in your compost pile.