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ellen_webI’m writing this on the first day of spring, and I’ve got the urge for gardenin’! I’m more organized than ever:

  • I’ve gathered all I need for the season,
  • I made a schedule for what must be done and when through fall,
  • and I have seeds sprouting under lights in my solarium, started the right number of weeks before Last Frost (this is only remarkable if you know that I ran two months late on everything almost all last year).

The kale starts are about 3” tall, and I’m just itchin’ to put ‘em out… but CAUTION!!! This is one of the easiest mistakes any gardener, novice or experienced, can make, and that is to PLANT TOO EARLY. I’m enthusiastic, my green babies sing “plant me!” every time I check them, and the sunshine outside is SO welcoming. But the generally accepted Last Frost date here in the Asheville area is around Mother’s Day, though weather seems more unpredictable than ever these days. While some vegetables don’t mind cold feet, I’m resisting the inclination to plant.

I did put out sugar snap seeds on Feb. 22nd, and while they usually pop up so quickly, they took almost three weeks this time, and I was afraid I’d given them a bad start. They’re a chorus of 14” green in 60 degrees today, lucky for me this time, but I’m just getting around to connecting the notion of premature planting, the cost of seeds wasted, and, most important, the time lost having to start over when one just can’t resist that urge to plant before the time is right. Or I’ll need to buy someone else’s starts, which is expensive but also supportive of our wonderful farming community.



Another mistake I’ve made is to overbuy seeds. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s done this. Over the winter we compensate for the cold with lush and verdant daydreams, and then come those temptress catalogs with photos of promised bounty. There’s some seriously good marketing there… those companies know exactly what they’re doing! This year I consulted my seed inventory (made a chart complete with planting year) first, bought ONLY what I needed, and a 2-year supply, so that I will save on shipping next year. Seeds last for a varying number of years (there are viability charts online), so to address reduced germination, just plant more seeds. You can always give starts away if you have too many. Also, I Googled for coupons from my favorite seed companies, and found two: one for free shipping and another for 25% off my purchase. Definitely worth the effort.

Last year I was out of town when it was time for the babies to be hardened. My husband kindly did it for me, but he didn’t know not to put them in full sun. Many died, and all my labels bleached out. I couldn’t tell one cucurbit or pepper from another. I planted them anyway, and wasn’t surprised when yellow squash came up and wiped out the cucumber bed. Get a special garden marker that won’t fade in sunlight.

Every year I get a little better at gardening…

Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis

Author: Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis

Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis retired from manufacturing to start her fourth career as wife and mother at 37. Now at 67, she enjoys dabbling in various voluntary efforts to “save the world.” She’s a self-trained creative cook and lover of ethnic cuisines, and her consistent passion for food has evolved to embrace the Local Food movement—so much so that she grows food in her front yard (can’t get more local than that!). If Ellen can do this, anyone can. Ellen is an 18-year transplant to Asheville via Tampa, Washington DC suburbs (most of them), and Charlotte.

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