"Easy Answer for Great Gardens" is the title of a book I wrote several years ago. It is a collection of the most-asked garden questions and the easy answers to common garden problems. It was the readers of this column that helped supply the best gardening tips in this book that make gardening more fun and less work.
You can still buy “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” at some bookstores or online and the price is still under $15.
Flash forward to today. What has changed since I wrote that book? The huge increase in edible gardens.
This spring the forecast is for more vegetables, berries, and fruits to be added to front and backyards due to a strong interest in both better health and more wealth.
All types of gardening are good for your health – gardening gives the flexibility and stress reduction of yoga, the strength training of weight lifting and the cardio workout of a brisk walk.
And gardeners are getting younger as a new generation is jumping on the farmer’s cart and riding the fresh produce train all the way to more flavorful food and lower grocery bills.
If you can’t make it to my talk at the Tacoma Home & Garden Show this week, here are the best of the Easy Answers for Growing Great Edible Gardens:
• Plant peas in early spring, but to keep them from rotting in our wet climate, pre-sprout the pea seeds by rolling them in a damp dishcloth for a few days. Once you see the seed coats crack you can safely plant them into the soil.
• Need tall poles for your tall peas? Recycle plastic PVC pipe or even metal pipe by arranging them into a giant tepee. Secure the tops of the pipes with a bungee cord or large rubber band. You can reuse these tall supports year after year.
• Don’t have any pipes or poles to support your beans or pea plants? Place a free-standing ladder in the garden and let it become covered with vining or climbing plants. You can even arrange for your squash and cucumbers to sit on the ladder steps as they ripen.
• Don’t have any ground to plant a garden? Put that ladder to work again. Place it on your patio or deck and use the steps to display pots of fresh herbs – you’ll have more room for more pots and the herbs will be right outside the door for easy harvest.
• Tomatoes are the most popular home-grown crop and easy to grow if you remember this tip for our cool summer climate: Plant cherry tomatoes. The smaller tomatoes ripen sooner, taste sweeter, are easier to grow in pots and take up much less room in the garden. Plus you can pop the whole tomato directly into your mouth. No seeds dribbling down your chin.
• Want to keep your garden gloves handy and dry? Nail a wooden clothes pin near the back door protected by the eaves of the house. Now you’ll know where to hang the gloves after working in the damp soil.
• Protective cloth or agricultural fleece is the easy answer to keeping green worms out of your cabbage and broccoli. It is the white butterflies that lay their eggs on these crops that then hatch into cabbage worms. If you keep the butterflies off the plants, you won’t have worms.
• How to keep cats out of a freshly planted garden is a common question. Sprinkling the soil with red pepper is the easy answer.
• Great gardens begin with great soil. If you don’t know what your soil needs just add compost. You don’t even have to make your own compost. Every garden center and nursery sells bags, bales or even truckloads of professionally made compost.
• If you want a bountiful garden that produces early and keeps producing late into the autumn season, then build raised beds.
Fill them with a mix of half compost and half topsoil. Add a bag of chicken manure to each 4-foot-by-8-foot bed. Toss in seeds and get out of the way.
• Good drainage, full sun, and excellent soil – now there’s the real easy answer to a great edible garden.
Marianne Binetti is the author of nine gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and will answer questions from her Web site at www.binettigarden.com.