Now’s the time to start planting tomato seeds

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By Cheryl Steenerson

There are only five more Mondays until spring.
I have to say that I have loved this winter. I haven’t had to walk up the drive even once.
Last winter I walked for almost a month. Sure, it got me in shape and offered plenty of beautiful night skies, but slipping and sliding while carrying groceries or dog food, was not my idea of a good time.
We should be done with the snow, if the August fog predictor is accurate. The number of foggy mornings predicted the number of snows accurately last year, so I’m hopeful.
Besides, it’s almost March.
It’s time to get growing indoors, if you like to start your own seeds. Since we all like to get tomatoes as early as possible, go ahead and start those seeds. You can keep starting them over the next month. Just look at the days to harvest to determine which seeds to start first.
You can also start seeds for broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage now. I’ll probably wait and get plants, since my indoor grow space is limited to my tomatoes. Though spring is a more difficult time to grow these crops (way more pests than in the fall), I’ve decided to give it a shot this year.
I have grown them in the fall in years past, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I was too busy with harvesting, canning and preserving summer vegetables to care much about the fall crops. So, this spring I’ll plant those crops, but I’ll use row covers to reduce the pest problems.
Time and energy are big factors when it comes to gardening. I have limited time and occasionally, my personal batteries run down (shocker, huh?).
Working smarter, not harder, is my personal mantra, so each year I look for more efficient ways to garden. Container or raised beds save both time and energy. You have fewer weeds and can monitor watering needs better.  Companion planting is an additional step because it can boost the crop yield, increase flavors and reduce pests and disease.
Growing perennial vegetables and herbs is another smart way to save time and energy. I’ve had basil growing outside for years and have enough dried stuff in the cabinet to last several more. It makes for great Christmas presents, though.
My strawberries are another favorite perennial, though I do some “refreshing” each year by using runners to make new plants. Year after year, all I have to do is a little fertilizing and mulching.  I have both June bearing and Ever bearing to make the harvest last longer.
Asparagus is another favorite perennial, and last fall I planted lots more.  I put in 2-year-old plants so I should get a fair crop this spring. I’m hoping to have some at the stand this year.
The secret is in the soil for asparagus especially, but also with most perennial crops.
Asparagus likes a neutral pH of 6.7-7.0 to keep fungal disease at bay, along with plenty of sun. Most all crops like well draining soil. Perennial plants just keep on producing, year after year, without all the planting.  Take a look at your gardening areas and see if you have some places to put in perennials. You’ll be glad you did.
Now, get going on those seeds. Find all your gardening stuff and take stock of what you need before spring arrives.
Let’s go green in Anderson County.
We can plant a little in the ground and keep the little we have in the wallet.  Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.