How to Plant a Veggie Garden from Seed

Renee's Garden Seeds, All Seed Starting Supplies

Growing vegetables and herbs from seed is easy, inexpensive, and fascinating because you get to witness the growth cycle of a plant from beginning to harvest. You can do it yourself or get family or friends involved in the plotting. All you need is a space that gets at least six hours of sun, has nearby access to a hose, and (wait for it … ) seeds!

Checklist:

Wheelbarrow, rake, hoe

Digging fork or long-handled trowel

✓ Bags of garden soil and/or compost

✓ Pencil or small stick

Seeds

✓ Gardening gloves and hat

✓ Drinking water, sunblock, family and friends

Prep.

In spring (as in, now), you can sow most seeds directly in the garden. But before you start doing what I like to call the “Sprinkle & Shake,” you need to prep the planting area. If you’re planting in the ground, remove weeds and apply a six-inch layer of compost. Compost boosts soil nutrition and helps retain soil moisture. In other words, your plants will love you for it. With a digging fork or long trowel, work the compost into the existing soil, breaking up any big clumps. You want the soil to be nice and finely textured. Rake the garden bed smooth and and lightly water it if the soil is dry. Aim for moist not soggy. With the heavy work now out of the way, you’re ready to plant.

Select.

If you haven’t selected your seeds by now, you can do this at the nursery while the compost and moisture settle into the garden bed. Buy seeds for what you want to eat, of course, but also consider how much space the plants will ultimately need, which ones perform best in your area (check with your local Orchard Nursery), and what vegetables grow well together. A reliable rule of thumb: veggies and herbs that taste great together can usually be grown together successfully. Leafy greens are typically easy to grow from seed and can thrive in each other’s company. Try a mix of kale, Swiss chard and lettuces. Other great easy-grow combos include cherry tomatoes, peppers and herbs like basil or thyme; and carrots, beans and radishes. Look for disease-resistant varieties, too, of which there seems to be increasingly more and more.

Sow.

Follow directions on seed packets for spacing requirements and how deep to plant. Make furrows with a hoe if you’ve got room to do long, traditional rows. For smaller plots, you can simply press a pencil or stick into the soil to create furrows, gently sprinkle the seeds, then pinch the soil over the seeds, pat lightly and water. You can snip off a corner of the packet and carefully tap the seeds into the furrows or distribute the seed by shaking it gently from your hand. Either way is easy-peasy. Scatter pinches of seed as evenly as possible but don’t worry if it’s not lined up. Be extra careful with very small seeds on a windy day. Larger seeds, such as for pole or bush beans, can simply be pushed one-by-one into the soil with a finger.

Water the furrows with the mist setting on your garden hose. Keep top of soil moist but not soggy until the seeds sprout. When seedlings emerge and have put on 2-3 “true” leaves, thin out the plants. This prevents overcrowding, benefits development, and is just easier to do while the plants are still young. If you thin the plants carefully, you can use the seedlings you pinch out elsewhere in the garden. Feel free to even start another row with them. The more veggies, the merrier.

Get all of your seedling, soil and planting needs taken care of when you visit your local Orchard Supply Hardware.

Empty trellis? Lonely arbor? Fill ’em with these easy-grow vines

Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine)

Team Osh Guest Blogger Paul Lee Cannon:

“Vines lend vertical visual excitement to an outdoor living space. Vine-covered structures such as trellises or arbors are key to vertical gardening, a trend that has fully taken root over the past few years and shows no signs of slowing down because of its solution in providing more room to grow (up!), particularly in smaller urban spaces.

The window of my home office from which I’m writing this post overlooks the backyard. Since spring has sprung, I notice that the vine activity is in full force. Bright pale-pink clusters of Jasminum polyanthum (pink jasmine) spill over fences. A Roger’s California grape (Vitis ‘Roger’s Red’) clings to the perimeter of the deck, shiny new lime-green foliage glistening in the sun, and countless tendrils looking to latch onto anything in their path. Climbing roses I’m growing in large pots are covered in buds on the verge of blossoming. I envision by summer they’ll be clinging to the deck railing to mingle with the grape, ultimately resulting in a harmonious tangle of fruit, flowers and foliage.

Whether your outdoor living space has ample room for a grape to run wild or is limited to gardening in containers, one of these three climbers can help make it beautiful. Ready to grow up? Let’s grow!

Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine)
Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine)

Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine),

USDA hardiness zones 8-10 – There’s a reason – actually several reasons – why jasmine is so popular. This evergreen garden classic boasts showy, incredibly fragrant, pinkish-white flowers spring through summer; thrives in sun or part shade; and grows fast – up to 25 feet long. Plant in rich, well-draining soil although it can tolerate less-favorable soils. When planting in the ground, water regularly until the vine’s established, which will become evident by emergence of new growth. From that point on it requires only occasional irrigation. If growing jasmine in a pot (preferably large enough to establish a substantial root system), apply a top layer of mulch to retain moisture and feed regularly with a granular fertilizer. Train up a trellis or arbor or even use as a groundcover. If it rambles a little too much for you, just give jasmine a good snip. She won’t mind.

Vitis vinifera (Common Grape)
Vitis vinifera (Common Grape)

Vitis vinifera (Common Grape),

USDA hardiness zones 7-10 – Growing a grape vine is easy-peasy if you have a reliably sunny spot, a sturdy structure for it to latch onto, and the space for it to quickly wander (Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance, can grow 10-20 feet in a year). Water regularly, especially during heat spells, and it’ll grow vigorously. The fruit emerges in summer, ripening in fall, followed by a stunning show of blazing red foliage into the colder months.

I haven’t ventured into winemaking (at least not yet) with harvests from the wild grape I’ve been growing the past several years, but I have made some delicious juice. Last summer, I reduced watering quite a bit, and what fruit emerged I let the birds and squirrels have at it. When the leaves fall off come autumn (grape is deciduous) collect and press them between the pages of a book, or do as I do and place a leaf at the bottom of a pot before planting. It’s a perfectly sustainable, economical way of preventing soil from escaping.

Rosa sp. (Rose varieties)
Rosa sp. (Rose varieties)

Rosa sp. (Rose varieties),

USDA hardiness zones vary widely – I used to write off roses as being too thorny (ouch!) and fussy, but after an inspiring, senses-blowing visit to the 15-acre Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, CA last spring, I pulled on a pair of thicker gloves and decided to give them a second chance. Since I lack the space for them in my front garden, which receives the most sunlight, I am experimenting with several rose varieties (including a few climbers) in large pots on the deck, which gets zapped a few hours at a time by afternoon sun.

After the generous rain we’ve received in the Bay Area the past few months, my roses are all robust with foliage and, as of this writing, on the verge of bursting into bloom. An English friend who can grow roses with her eyes closed advised regular feedings of alfalfa pellets. I took heed of her tip and as a result, my container rose garden is responding quite beautifully and healthfully. But enough about my roses, let’s talk about one for your garden. Rosa banksiae (Lady Banks Rose – USDA zones 6-9; evergreen in mild climates) is a classic, easy-care, thornless variety – I repeat, thornless. Give full sun plus regular watering and fertilizer, and you’ll be rewarded with a showstopping spray of miniature, fluffy, butter-yellow blooms and lush, deep-green foliage in spring and summer. Take note that Lady Banks can grow 15-20 feet long – so be sure and give her her space.”

Forget mulch: Fill gaps in the garden with these great groundcovers

Cerastium tomentosum ground

Team Osh Guest Blogger Paul Lee Cannon:

“Who doesn’t love a freshly mulched garden? Besides giving a landscape a beautiful finishing touch, a top layer of mulch (typically wood chips) conserves moisture, keeps weeds at bay, and even improves soil health. But I have to admit I’ve been slowly weaning off mulch the past couple of years because I’ve found a more gratifying alternative, one that doesn’t require lugging heavy bags. It’s called “overplanting.” Basically this means covering as much soil in the garden as you can within reason. The result is fuller, variety-filled planting beds and loads-less stress on your back. I curated this list of easy-to-grow plants that in my experience make fantastic groundcovers and that can, quite literally, fill in for mulch. Plus, the more plants, the merrier, right? Happy growing!

Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear)
Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear)

Stachys byzantina
(Lamb’s Ear),

USDA hardiness zones 4-9 – The fuzzy gray-green leaves are fun to touch (kids LOVE them) and it spreads out along the ground creating a 4-foot-wide or more wonderful, wooly carpet. Pinkish-purply flower spikes rise above the foliage in summer and attract bees like nobody’s business. Grow in a well-drained spot that receives full or part sun. It requires very little water once established. I started growing lamb’s ear from seed many years ago, and it continues to reliably thrive in my garden in numerous ways. You can use it to soften the borders of the front walk, add textural interest to container plantings, and brighten dark spots. I also plant it between shrubs with dark foliage to create a wavy, ethereal effect which is just gorgeous. This plant is so prolific as a groundcover that this past fall I divided several clumps for sharing and poked some into the parking strip in front of our home, where they are now quickly taking over in a good way.

Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage)
Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage)

Salvia leucantha
(Mexican Bush Sage),

USDA hardiness zones 8-11 – Meet my go-to for adding a pop of long-lasting color, filling in bare patches, and planting in tough spots like my multiply mentioned parking strip. I love, love, LOVE this easy-to-grow, drought-tolerant evergreen shrub and for many, many, MANY reasons. It puts out pretty purple and white blooms all year long, attracts hummingbirds, responds favorably to pruning, and covers a lot of ground fast (3-5 feet tall and wide). The narrow, gray-green leaves are handsome as are the upright stems which are covered with white wooly hairs. Plant in full sun for more robust flowering and foliage, then kick back and wait for the hummingbird show.

Cerastium tomentosum flower
Cerastium tomentosum flower

Cerastium tomentosum
(Snow-in-Summer),

USDA hardiness zones 3-7 – If you’ve got a really sunny spot in your garden that needs filling in, pick up a flat of this sweet lil’ evergreen groundcover and dig in. It quickly forms a silvery gray mat of foliage, followed by clustered masses of tiny white flowers come late spring into early summer. It grows 6-8 inches high and wide and spreads faster with regular watering, but is drought tolerant once established. Plant each plug (and lots of them for best, snowiest effect) about a foot apart in well-draining soil. Grow in partial shade if your climate is a particularly hot one. It’s a real rock star in a rock garden, on a dry hillside, and in the company of other plants with similarly hued foliage for a dreamy, monochromatic effect. Now on with the snow!

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens (Red Buckwheat)
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens (Red Buckwheat)

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens
(Red Buckwheat),

USDA hardiness zones 8-10 – This California native perennial plant astounds me. I grow it in dry, heavy clay soil in my front yard, NEVER water it, and it rewards me for my neglect with a dense mound (1 foot long by 3 feet wide) of ruffled, rich-green, oval leaves (white and wooly underneath) and swarms of hot-pink, pom-pom-like flowers from summer to fall. The butterflies love the blooms just as much, if not more, than I do. I harvested last year’s blooms and discovered they make a beautiful, rust-colored dry flower arrangement. Plant this buckwheat in full to part sun, preferably in fall before the rain, then leave it alone. It’s really that easy.

Eriogonum arborescens (Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat)
Eriogonum arborescens (Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat)

Eriogonum arborescens
(Santa Cruz Island Buckwheat),

USDA hardiness zones 7-10 – Here’s another tried-and-true California buckwheat I adore. It’s a fast-growing evergreen shrub with a compact, mounding habit reaching 3 feet tall by 5 feet wide. I grow it in clay soil, full sun, and very rarely water it, but it still responds generously with lots of pale-green foliage and heads of rusty-pink flowers that bloom summer through California winter. You can even give it a go in less light, which will result in darker foliage. I’ve seen it grown in the shade as an underplanting for a tree and it’s still attractive. The casual, meadowy look really appeals to me, plus I appreciate that it responds kindly to the snip-snip of my pruning shears. Care for it as you would red buckwheat. This plant thrives on neglect, too!

Abelia grandiflora (Glossy Abelia)
Abelia grandiflora (Glossy Abelia)

Abelia grandiflora
(Glossy Abelia),

USDA hardiness zones 6-9 – For most of the 13 years I’ve lived in my home, an abelia has beautifully flanked the front steps. This unfussy evergreen has a lovely cascading habit, shiny leaves, and tiny bell-like white flowers. It thrives in full to part sun and there’s no need to water it that much (if at all) once it’s taken root in your garden (an exception to this is if you reside in a hot climate). Abelia grows at a moderate pace, ultimately reaching 4-6 feet tall by 5 feet wide, but is easy to keep clipped back to a manageable size. I love just letting it ramble and cover the ground. Because it does a pretty fabulous job of it.”

Get the Dirt on Organic Gardening

reneesBeen thinking of going organic? Good news! It’s easy, it’s rewarding, and all you need to get started is plants, dirt, and fertilizer.

Organic Plants

Think about what you want to put in your garden, and how much space you have to work with. Plan out where you’ll put each plant, and how many of each you want. Graph paper is a lifesaver here, because you can plan out every square foot if you want to.

The types of plants you’re going to grow will decide how deep your dirt needs to be. Herbs don’t need deep soil, so they can do well in window boxes and containers. Tomatoes, on the other hand, do better in raised beds or in-ground. Sometimes you can cheat the system by planting shallow plants right next to deep plants, but every plant needs some space of its own. No one likes to be crowded.

Do a little research on how many plants to grow. You don’t want to end up with way too many of something you’re not going to eat, and some plants can surprise you. For example, an average zucchini plant in an average garden having an average year will produce thirty pounds of zucchinis. Thirty pounds. On average.

Browse Organic Seed Starting

Jobes Blood Meal and Bone Meal

Organic Dirt

Before you start digging holes, you need to get to know your dirt. Use a soil test kit to figure out what nutrients you’ve got enough of, and what you need to add. Ideally your pH will be balanced, and your soil will be rich in nitrogen (for leaf development), phosphorous (for fruit growth), and potassium (for healthy roots). If you’re lacking in any of those minerals, amend your soil and test again after a few days.

Start prepping your garden soil about a month before you want to plant. Mix your amendments (like fertilizer, nutrients, and specialty soils) in with a garden fork or a shovel. You want to make your soil fluffy. Dirt that’s too tightly packed can make it harder for roots to grow.

Check if your soil’s ready for planting by rolling a clump lightly into a ball.  Now crumble it in your hand. If it just breaks into a few smaller pieces, it’s ready however, if it feels doughy or soggy you need to wait for drier weather. And if it’s hard or powdery water the ground, fluff it again, and check again in a few days.
Soil and Fertilizers

Browse organic soils and ammendments

Organic Fertilizers

Fertilizers and amendments don’t just feed the plants. They also feed the soil, helpful bugs, and all the other things that keep your garden thriving. Everything needs to eat, after all.

Add them to your garden in the spring and again in the fall. And if you have a longer growing season, you can use a little more. Organic fertilizers are slow-releasing, so you’re not going to overload your soil.

Browse organic fertilizers

Pests

OK, we didn’t mention pests. But we need to be realistic. You’re going to have pests. And since you’re not going to use any chemical herbicides or pesticides, how will you protect your plants from being choked out by weeds, or eaten by bugs? Thankfully, your neighborhood Orchard Supply Hardware store is well-stocked with a full line of pest management and weed controls for organic gardening.

And don’t let your organic gardening end with vegetables. Shrubs, flowerbeds, even your lawn can benefit from organic methods. Don’t be stingy, spread the love!

CA ONLY: No Sales Tax –  February 18-20, 2017 the price you see is the price you pay. So it’s the perfect time to stock up and save on the stuff you need anyway.

OR Residents ONLY: 10% OFF –  February 18-20, 2017 the price you see is the price you pay. So it’s the perfect time to stock up and save on the stuff you need anyway.

Head over to your neighborhood Orchard Supply Hardware® and grab the plants, soils, and amendments you need to get your organic garden started right.

Organics

5 Beautiful, Easy-to-Grow Evergreen Plants

Polygala x dalmaisiana (Sweet Pea Shrub)

Team Osh Guest Blogger Paul Lee Cannon…

“I like to think of the front and back yards of my Oakland home as one big test garden. My partner and I have lived there since 2003 and I’ve pretty much been gardening like a madman ever since. Like most home gardeners, I’ve killed my fair share of plants over the years (even lantana!), but thankfully my gardening successes have outgrown its failures. I attribute the bulk of this success to smart plant choices: opting for those that can still look beautiful despite challenging growing conditions like poor soil, inconsistent light or irrigation, and heavy foot traffic. Heaven knows, my garden has all of those.

Here are five tough-as-nails plants I’ve enjoyed growing not only for their beauty but because they can, in the words of my first horticulture teacher, “thrive on neglect.” Once established, each requires little if any water and maybe an occasional trim. Yep, they’re that easy, plus you can find them at most nurseries, including the Orchard nursery. So go ahead, give one or several a try. Happy gardening!

Salvia clevelandii (California Blue Sage)
Salvia clevelandii (California Blue Sage)

Salvia clevelandii (California Blue Sage)

Come summertime, up pop pretty pale-purple/blue spikes of whorled blooms above soft grayish-green foliage with a sweet, musky scent. This mounding, upright evergreen shrub can quickly grow 3-5 feet tall and 5-8 feet wide. I keep mine in check by pruning half of it back after the blooms have come and gone, and it always seems to spring back more vigorous than before. Plant in a spot that gets full sun and where the soil drains well. That way it’ll become the envy of neighbors and hummingbirds alike. For deer, not so much.

Polygala x dalmaisiana (Sweet Pea Shrub)
Polygala x dalmaisiana (Sweet Pea Shrub)

Polygala x dalmaisiana (Sweet Pea Shrub)

Talk about a nonstop flower plant show! This fast-growing evergreen shrub goes gangbusters with magenta-colored, sweet pea-ish blooms from spring through fall. Give it full sun or part shade with little to no irrigation once established, and it’ll grow 3-5 feet tall, 4-6 feet wide. I noticed this past fall that it reseeds easily so I transplanted several seedlings to fill gaps in the garden, and so far so gorgeous! Sweet pea shrub is also a fabulous low-hedge alternative for boxwood, and performs wonderfully in pots. I actually noticed one growing in a concrete urn in Lisa Vanderpump’s garden while watching “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Teucrium chamaedrys (Wall Germander)
Teucrium chamaedrys (Wall Germander)

Teucrium chamaedrys (Wall Germander)

A tidy, ground-hugging evergreen shrub, wall germander is grown mainly for the small, glossy, dark-green foliage. But boy do the bees go gaga for the whorls of loosely spiked pinkish-purple blooms in summer. Give it full sun, well-drained soil, and average amounts of water, although it can tolerate less optimal conditions. I grow some in part shade that I barely water and they’re just fine. I am particularly impressed by the one on our parking strip that’s endured countless clobberings from our truck’s passenger door. This toughie’s a moderate to fast grower, reaching 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide. If it gets unruly, simply shear it back to the ground and in a few weeks it will reemerge more vibrant than ever.

Lobelia laxiflora (Mexican Lobelia)
Lobelia laxiflora (Mexican Lobelia)

Lobelia laxiflora (Mexican Lobelia)

This easy, shrubby groundcover plant has a fast, spreading habit that makes it ideal for covering large areas. The blooms are slender little trumpet-shaped wonders (perfectly engineered for hummingbird beaks!) in shades of red and pale orange and cover the plant pretty much all year long in our mild climates. Skinny, tapered leaves lend attractive texture and lushness. Topping out at about 2 feet tall with a 5-foot spread, it typically requires only occasional water once established. I’ve had one in my front yard for at least 10 years now and rarely water it, which keeps it well behaved because it tends to ramble too much if the soil is moist. In sun or shade, it’s content either way.

Bulbine frutescens (Stalked Bulbine)
Bulbine frutescens (Stalked Bulbine)

Bulbine frutescens (Stalked Bulbine)

Let’s start with this evergreen groundcover plant’s good looks. The matte-green leaves are linear and fleshy, like chives. It’s a fast grower with a height and spread of 1-2 feet. Bulbine has an upright, clumping habit and spreads by underground stems (rhizomes). From spring through fall, reed-thin stalks rise above the foliage and culminate in spikes of fuzzy, star-shaped, lemon-yellow flowers which attract butterflies. Once established, bulbine tolerates drought and can live on little water but looks and flowers better with occasional irrigation during very dry or hot conditions. Share the love – thin plantings by dividing the clumps and giving them out at your next plant swap. A single cutting from my neighbor more than 10 years ago is now a glorious specimen that keeps on giving.”