I wrote last month about starting my seedlings in newspaper pots. I've been so ancy to get my garden going and start growing my veggies. Sadly I killed my first round of seedlings. Just more proof that even though I've been gardening over 10 years I've got plenty to learn.
I killed the seedlings by leaving them out over night- not on purpose. It was an accident that I'll attribute to "mommy brain". My younger boys loud & exciting return from a week at Grandma's thoroughly distracted me from bringing in the 2 seedling trays I was trying to harden off.
Since then I've planted lots more seedlings and they are growing well. I've got my laundry room full once again of lovely growing plants and I'm so excited to move them into the garden in the next few weeks.
We've had some lovely spring weather in Illinois so I even got out and planted one of my 3 beds. I planted 3 varieties of lettuce that like cool weather, Bloomsdale spinach and Romanesco broccoli. I've got 3-4 weeks until we'll be frost free so I only planted veggies that do well in the early spring.
So what should we be planting in the early spring? What plants compliment and help each other? I've been reading up on the topic and below is some of the great information I found.
P. Allen Smith has a great post on spring vegetables to start early detailed here.
Below is some info I found from Organic Authority on when to plant certain spring vegetables.
Plant hardy vegetables about four to six weeks prior to the date of your last spring frost, including brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage and collards. Lettuce, spinach and other salad greens; plus peas, radishes, onions and potatoes can also be planted at this time.
In early spring, approximately two weeks prior to the last average frost date in your area, it’s safe to plant lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes, dill, cilantro, cabbage, broccoli, celery, kale and potatoes outdoors. Both lettuce and celery seeds need light to germinate. Be careful to only cover these varieties of seeds lightly with soil during the planting process. Directly sow carrot, radish, dill and cilantro seeds. Transplanting is not recommended for these types of vegetables and herbs.
Do not directly sow peppers, tomatoes or eggplant into your garden. Start peppers indoor approximately eight weeks before transplanting them outdoors. Remove any buds that appear on your pepper seedlings before transplanting them to ensure that the root system has grown large enough to support a pepper crop.
Start tomatoes indoors about six to seven weeks prior to moving them into your garden. Start cucumbers and melons indoors in cooler regions for a better yield, but transplant them gently because their roots do not like to be disturbed. Melons are heat loving plants. If you garden in a northern region, you may need to use plastic mulch or row covers to provide enough warmth to produce melons.
After the Last Frost
After the last average frost date, it is safe to plant beans, corn, melons, cucumbers, squash (summer and winter), tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, eggplant and basil. Remember to check the predicted low temperatures in your local extended forecast before planting your frost susceptible plants outside. The local last average frost date is based on the average last predicted frost and is not an absolute date.
Below are some combinations of plants that complement each other. I compiled this list from Organic Gardening.
- Cabbage and dill: "Dill is a great companion for cabbage family plants, such as broccoli and brussels sprouts," Cunningham says. "The cabbages support the floppy dill," while the dill attracts the tiny beneficial wasps that control imported cabbageworms and other cabbage pests.
- Corn and beans: The beans attract beneficial insects that prey on corn pests such as leafhoppers, fall armyworms and leaf beetles. And bean vines climb up the corn stalks.
- Lettuce and tall flowers: Nicotiana (flowering tobacco) and cleome (spider flower) give lettuce the light shade it grows best in.
- Radishes and spinach: Planting radishes among yor spinach will draw leafminers away from the spinach. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves doesn't prevent the radishes from growing nicely underground.
- Potatoes and sweet alyssum: The sweet alyssum has tiny flowers that attract delicate beneficial insects, such as predatory wasps. Plant sweet alyssum alongside bushy crops like potatoes, or let it spread to form a living ground cover under arching plants like broccoli. Bonus: The alyssum's sweet fragrance will scent your garden all summer.
- Cauliflower and dwarf zinnias: The nectar from the dwarf zinnias lures ladybugs and otherpredators that help protect cauliflower.
- Collards and catnip: Studies have found that planting catnip alongside collards reduces flea-beetle damage on the collards.
- Strawberries and love-in-a-mist: Tall, blue-flowered "love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) looks wonderful planted in the center of a wide row of strawberries," Cunningham says.
- Marigolds and Melons. Certain marigold varieties control nematodes in the roots of melon as effectively as chemical treatments.
- Tomatoes and cabbage: Tomatoes are repellent to diamondback moth larvae, which are caterpillars that chew large holes in cabbage leaves.
- Cucumbers and nasturtiums: The nasturtium's vining stems make them a great companion rambling among your growing cucumbers and squash plants, suggests Sally Jean Cunningham, master gardener and author of Great Garden Companions. Nasturtiums "are reputed to repel cucumber beetles, but I depend on them more as habitat for predatory insects," such as spiders and ground beetles.