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Vegetable Gardening Hints, Issue #054
April 22, 2013

8 steps for starting vegetable seeds outdoors:

  1. Sow seeds when conditions are right for that particular vegetable. If the soil is too cold or wet the seed will rot.
  2. Mark out the row with a stick, edge of a hoe or your fingers to the depth recommended on the seed packet. If you plant the seed too deep it will not sprout.
  3. Water soil if it is dry.
  4. Sow thinly along the row. Never pour directly from the packet, pour the seeds into your hand and then take the vegetable seeds between your thumb and finger. That way you have more control of how much is planted.
  5. Cover the seed by gently replacing the soil with your hand or the back of a rake. The general rule of thumb is to cover the seed with soil twice the size of the seed.
  6. Firm down the seed bed with your hand or the bottom of a hoe.
  7. Water the seed bed with a fine spray of water; too heavy of a water may wash the seeds away. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. If the weather is hot you may need to water your beds twice a day until the seeds sprout.
  8. Thin the plants after 2-4 weeks of growth.

3 Easy Tips to make sure your seeds grow!

  1. Getting soil ready for planting

    There are two main systems when it comes to gardening either tilling or not tilling the soil. Tilling is the most common way for soil preparation, this includes working the soil by hand or with a machine, turning under green manures, lime, fertilizers, and other organic matter. No till, also known, as no dig gardening is another way of managing your garden where the soil is never disturbed. This is a method of gardening where several inches of mulch are spread over the soil and replenished every year. The mulch keeps the weeds under control and decomposes overtime enriching the garden soil. Vegetables are planted through or under the mulch.

    Which method is best for you?

    Benefits of tilling:

    • Aerate soil
    • Breaks up soil compaction
    • Aid the soil structure
    • Improves drainage
    • Extends crop rooting depth
    • Helps deepen the topsoil which increase soil fertility
    • Makes nutrients more available to plant roots

    Disadvantages of tilling

    • Usually need some kind of equipment, rototiller, tractor
    • Can destroy soil structure and organisms in the soil

    Benefits of no till:

    • Soil structure continues to improve over time. Weeds are pulled or hoed in. Organic matter is put on as mulch to keep weeds down.
    • Mow green manures and leave them as mulch
    • Earthworms are not disturbed. Use straw as mulch and the earthworms come out in droves.

    Disadvantages of no till:

    • In rainy climates mulching attracts slugs.
    • Needs to be kept well mulched so weeds do not take over
    • Straw is the best mulch as hay is often too weedy, however straw can be very expensive depending on the size of your garden

    Check out how to prepare a new garden

  2. Adding organic matter
    Organic matter is needed to enhance the soil structure and to replenish the top soil which is naturally depleted by growing plants. If your soil is sandy it will enable the soil hold more water; if it is clay it will lighten the soil so the plant roots will grow better. Veggie plants grow best in a fertile light soil and the plant roots need water, air circulation and nutrients to grow well. These basic needs come from your garden soil or from the deep subsoil, so regularly adding in organic matter will enable your plants to get what they need to grow well.

    Types of organic matter

    Compost - Make your own!

    Animal manures

    • Aged manure is more decomposed and less likely to burn the plants.
    • Organic standards require aged manure.
    • Common types are: Steer, Horse, llama, cow and chicken.


    • Helps with water retention when temperature is hot.
    • Keeps soil from hardening.
    • Keep soil warmer/cooler.
    • Common types are: Grass, leaves, straw, hay, newspaper, black plastic.

    Green manures – usually planted in the fall

    • Add organic matter to soil, some add nitrogen (peas, beans which are nitrogen fixers)
    • Helps soil from washing away in the rainy season
    • Common types are: fall rye, vetch, field peas

  3. Adding Fertilizers

    Most garden soil needs these nutrients added in each season as plants use them up or they are leached out of the soil by wind and rain.

    • Nitrogen – alfalfa meal, alfalfa pellets blood meal, compost, fish emulsion
    • Phosphorus – bone meal, rock phosphate (slow release)
    • Potassium – greensand, kelp meal, sulpomag (sulfate of potash magnesium) or langbeinite (slow release

    Soil needs trace amounts of 13 or more other elements, which are often naturally found in correct quantities in most soil. Some areas Calcium (egg shells), Sulphur or Magnesium (in some lime) may need to be added

Now check out the best times to sow your seeds.

April to do list:
  • Start seeding your lettuce, lettuce , radishes, potatoes, and carrots outdoors.
  • Start cucumber, squash, eggplant, and pepper seedlings indoors.
  • Start a new compost pile.
  • Start weeding your garden beds.
  • Small seedlings may need protection.

Veggie Recipe

Sweet Chile dressing

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a tight fitting jar and shake well.

Golden Carrot Bake

  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 2/3 cup white basmati rice
  • 1½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
Combine carrot, rice, salt and water in a saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook covered until the rice is done, approximately 25 minutes. Stir in 1 ½ cups cheese, milk, and eggs. Put mixture into a casserole dish and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the mixture has set. Top with the rest of the cheese and then return to the oven to melt the cheese. Make 4 servings.

Living in a tropical or warm climate?

What to grow now
How to grow common veggies

Your vegetable gardening helper

Garden photos


Catherine's bio

Why is Soil so Important is a great new book giving simple and easy instructions on making and keeping your garden soil healthy.

Other vegetable gardening books written by Catherine Abbott, Your Vegetable Gardening Helper.

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Happy gardening!


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