By Heather Cherry
Spring hasn't quite sprung yet. But, that doesn't mean you can't begin preparation for the beautiful vegetable garden you've been waiting all winter to create.
Late march/early April is a good time to plant peppers. Planting during this time of year will allow the pepper plants to grow and sprout earlier than if you wait until May, when gardening season really starts to take off. So don't shovel away the snow just yet. Instead, find a safe window sill where you can nestle your pots for a few months.
Using old throw-away containers is also a handy and affordable trick. Poke a couple of holes in the bottom and then fill them with soil. Sprinkle your desired pepper seeds in the pots, water slightly and then place them on the ledge to grow. Water regularly and it will only be a matter of time until you are producing plants to transfer to the ground. (The same procedure can be done for tomato plants, but wait until the first week of April to plant.)
It is a good idea to start planning your garden during this final stretch of winter. Think about the location and the plants you wish to grow. When choosing a location, select a spot that is close to a water source to make it easier to maintain. Many vegetable plants require six to eight hours of sun daily. If this is not possible, you can always grow leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach because they don't require as much sun.
Live in an apartment or don't have a huge yard? Not a problem. Remember, vegetables require only water, sun and soil. You could utilize the many hanging options to grow plants like tomatoes or simply create an above-ground garden box. This is possible by first layering with newspaper then placing the soil on top. Always purchase or use good soil because success starts in the soil.
Wondering how to test your soil? You can simply check your soil's drainage by first soaking it with a hose. Wait one day and then dig up a small handful. Squeeze the soil firmly. If the soil hasn't formed a ball and falls apart, chances are your soil is too sandy. Does it stay together even if you poke it hard? Chances are it is clay.
These problems can be solved easily by adding compost, fertilizer or organic matter. Good soil should stay together in a ball but easily break apart; soil that follows these standards has good drainage.
Starting a garden is easy. Don't think about it like a huge project you have to complete in one day. Take it one step at a time, and rest assured, by mid-summer, you will be delighting in delectable vegetables.
Heather Cherry holds a Masters in Professional Writing from Chatham University. She is a 4-H Youth Leader of a writing club to help inspire and shape young writers with their dreams. She is a member of the Kane Area Chamber of Commerce, the Kane Garden Club and the Route 6 Tourist Association where she serves as Administrative Assistant. Heather has spent most of her life involving herself in writing by authoring a young adult fiction novel titled Angst, authoring blogs on her website, www.cherryconsulting.com, beginning a writing and communication consulting business, reporting for her local newspapers The Ridgway Record and The Bradford Era as well as writing a variety of articles for many different outlets. Heather and her husband Steve live in rural Pennsylvania where there isn't much commotion other than the rustling trees. Here they raise their son, Troy.