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Preparation for the new planting season
Once the worst frost is over, you can gradually begin preparing your garden in February for the new season. If you plan to plant a vegetable garden this year, you can start sowing the first plants on the windowsill, in a cold frame or in the greenhouse. An overview of the different growing locations can be found here:
- Windowsill: almost every house has a bright, warm windowsill. You can make a start with a few accessories such as seed trays, growing soil and transparent film. For advanced vegetable growers, a mini greenhouse is recommended for the windowsill. A grow light will also be useful, as this makes it easier to control the temperature and light conditions. As soon as the plants are large enough, you will need to prick them out – i.e. separate them – and transplant them into a larger container or flowerbed.
- Cold frames: cold frames are like small greenhouses for outdoors. These boxes with lids provide more space for plants than a windowsill, but less than a greenhouse. In a cold frame, you can not only sow seedlings, but also leave the plants to grow. The compact size of the cold frame means that it easily fits in smaller gardens or on larger balconies. Cold frames used as raised beds are especially convenient and back-friendly.
- Greenhouse: professionals will appreciate having their own greenhouse, which provides them with plenty of space for growing vegetables in their own garden. If the greenhouse is equipped with a heater, it’s even possible to overwinter plants in it, while the heat generated naturally will be enough for plants sown early in the season. Attention: you may need a building permit for a greenhouse on your property – especially if it has a solid foundation. If in doubt, it’s best to contact the building authority in your municipality.
Whether you choose a windowsill, a cold frame or a greenhouse, pretty shovels, rakes and watering cans will make gardening much more fun. This attractive shovel and rake set is ideal for growing seeds, for example (31.80 francs). Decorative plant signs like this zinc sheet one (8.15 francs) are also useful so that you always know which little plant is growing where.
1. For Mediterranean dishes: eggplant
Eggplant is a popular vegetable that can be grown on the windowsill from early February. It’s important that the temperature is warm enough – 22 to 24 degrees is ideal. You should therefore choose a south-facing window or use a heat lamp for plants.
Eggplant seeds germinate well after two to four weeks. They take a little longer than most vegetables – but don’t give up if nothing seems to be happening in relation to other plants. It’s best to put each seed in its own pot and cover it with a thin layer of growing soil. Then moisten the soil with a spray bottle and cover the pot with transparent film or place it in a special greenhouse for the windowsill. Don’t forget to ventilate every now and then so that the seeds don’t mold.
Then, in early May, you can transplant the seedlings into a cold frame or to your greenhouse. In July or August, you will be able to harvest delicious eggplants from your own garden to make Mediterranean dishes.
2. Varied and pretty to look at: bell peppers
Bell peppers also love warm conditions, which is why they should be grown in advance on the windowsill before being moved outside to the greenhouse. They come in a variety of shapes and colors, as sweet fruit or hot chili peppers. However, the sowing and cultivation methods are the same for all varieties. They are easy to grow, even using seeds from supermarket fruits.
It’s best to scatter the seeds in a planting tray with growing soil and to cover them with a thin layer of soil. After that, press them down and water generously, but not too much. As with eggplant, cover the tray with film or place it in a small greenhouse. The temperature should ideally be between 20 and 22 degrees.
After about two weeks, depending on the variety, the seeds will begin to germinate. Once the first two leaves have grown – which takes about four weeks – you can prick out the plants. By mid-July, the first green fruits should be hanging in the greenhouse, and they should be ripe by the end of the month. Ideal for grilling, frying or in salads.
3. Express growth: spinach
Spinach is one of the few vegetables that you can sow outdoors even in late February. The vegetables are very straightforward to grow, so even beginners will manage it. Just make sure that the variety is suitable for spring planting when you buy the seeds.
Before you scatter the seeds, make sure there are no weeds in the soil, loosen it and mix in compost. Make low, but not too shallow furrows to scatter the seeds into. After that, cover them with soil and pat them firmly. Film or fleece will protect the seedlings from frost.
You can also start growing spinach in the house. But unlike eggplant, it doesn’t like overly warm, bright conditions. Otherwise it will become tart. About twelve degrees is optimal. The spinach will then grow quickly – it will begin to germinate after about eight to ten days and will be ready to pick after six to eight weeks.
4. Edible flower buds: artichokes
Artichokes form very decorative flowers that are wonderful to look at, even if you don’t like the taste of the vegetable. In addition, they exude a sweet fragrance and attract bees. In order for the plant to bear flowers in the same year, you need to be early and start growing them on the windowsill in January or February.
Scatter the seeds in a seed box with loose, humus-rich soil. At an optimal temperature of 20-25 degrees, they will begin to germinate after two to three weeks – or even sooner if you put the seeds in warm water for a few hours before sowing.
Once the plants are spread densely over the tray, plant them in individual pots. By mid- to late-April, the plants should have about three to five leaves and be ready for a sunny spot in the fresh air. You need to make sure there is enough space, because with good care, the plants can grow up to two meters over several years. You can harvest them from August to September.
5. All-time favorite: the tomato
Tomatoes are a real classic among amateur vegetable growers. After all, with proper care, they can be very productive: with just a few plants, you can enjoy fresh tomatoes from your own garden all summer.
Tomatoes are sown in a similar way to eggplant – but the plants germinate much faster. This should take about eight to ten days. If you have sown the seeds in a seed tray instead of in individual pots, you can prick out the plants as soon as the first two pairs of leaves appear.
Tomatoes can be grown either in a greenhouse or on a balcony or patio – ideally at temperatures of 18 to 25 degrees. However, without a greenhouse, the plants shouldn’t be moved outdoors until May, as they can’t withstand frost. Pots or flowerbeds should have a climbing aid for the plants. You can harvest the first fruits at the end of July and use them to prepare delicious sauces, homemade ketchup or salads.
Conclusion: the early bird...
If you can hardly wait for the new gardening season, you can – and should – start sowing the first seedlings now. Many varieties are particularly good at germinating on the windowsill. Even novice gardeners can discover the fun of gardening with a few seeds.