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Concerning That Itch to Garden

Written By: Bob and Linda Larson  |  Posted: Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

            Well, it's spring once again and the itch is back to get back into the dirt.  This year in Eau Claire has been particularly hard.  The record setting warm weather in March has the fruit trees already blossoming, the tulips and daffodils in full bloom.  We harvested our first meal of asparagus on March 30th!!  But in Wisconsin, this does have a bad side.  The last frost usually occurs sometime in mid May, so the jump start can cause us to get ahead of ourselves. 

            One way to satisfy the gardening itch is to start your own plants indoors or in a protected outdoor "cold frame".   Not only can you see the growth process of your plants, you can save some money.  Many garden centers charge from $1.50 to $2 for a pack of 4-6 vegetable and flower plants.  There is still time to do this and still plant your young plants in your garden at the end of May.

            If this is your first time starting seeds indoors, you can buy a plastic tray with seed starter plugs and a transparent lid.  There are many price ranges and kinds on the market.  We have tried the expensive and the cheaper varieties and actually find that the cheaper ones work better.  You place a seed in the little plug, water the tray, put the lid on, place in a sunny east or south window and wait.  Make sure the plants get plenty of light or they will get spindly.

            If you want to be really thrifty, pull out all those little pots you saved last year because you just couldn't throw them away, fill with some seed starter mix, and plant your seeds. 

            Once the plants are big enough, you just pop the plug into a hole in the garden, fill in with dirt and water.  Plants started indoors should have some protection until they get used to being outside.  We use the old fashioned way -- tin cans with the bottom cut out.  After a couple of weeks you can carefully remove the cans.

            Another way to start seeds early is to use an outdoor cold frame.  If you search on the internet or in gardening how to books, you will see a lot of information.  You can purchase a ready-made system but it may be just as easy to make your own with that old window you put in the garage years ago.  Make a temporary wooden frame the same size as your window.  Set it in the corner of your garden and place the window on the top of it.  The window can be set to the side when the weather is warm and put over the top of the frame when the temperature is cold or there is a danger of frost.  Be careful that you protect the window so someone does not fall into it and get cut on the glass.  If you want directions with pictures, search for cold frame plans on the internet and take your pick.

            In the Larson garden, Bob got the itch just like everyone else.  We already have onions, lettuce, melons and squash started all over our house, wherever we could find a sunny window.  Our plants are getting bigger and we will have to find an alternative place to put them.  They are outgrowing their little pots and the middle of May is 3 weeks away!   Our apple tree is blossoming too early, so the frost will probably kill the little apples.  Such is the nature of gardening in Wisconsin!

                Bob and Linda Larson garden in Urne Wisconsin.  They have two sons and two granddaughters.

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