My seedlings are just about ready for the garden! The tiny cotyledons have given way to the true leaves of the plant and they are in the process of being hardened off on the back porch.

Healthy soil, proper watering, and the use of mulch will keep the garden in good shape all season long. So, here is what I do to get it all going in the garden:

When amending garden soil, I keep it simple. I add compost and manure. Fresh compost and aged manure are great if you have them, but the bagged variety will work just as well. Last year's mulch and the cover of autumn's leaves will be worked into the bed, too. A friend tilled the garden for me last year, so this year I'll just turn the soil with a shovel. A strong, flat rake will be all I'll need to to level and smooth out the top. To prevent root-rot, I'll ball up a handful of soil on planting day. If it crumbles and doesn't hold it's shape the garden is ready for planting.

After a week or two of being on the porch, my seedlings will be ready to be transplanted. Just as with planting a tree or shrub, I'll try to get the seedlings in on a cloudy, cooler day. And again, like a tree, I'll keep in mind the mature size of the plant. I have to confess, last year I doubted the success of my seedlings and and added larger plants from the garden center. By mid-August, I had a tomato jungle!

After the seedlings are planted, I'll water gently and cover with mulch. I had great success last year using straw as mulch and I'll do so again this year. As the tomato plants get larger, I'll add wooden stakes and use pantyhose to tie them up. I'll plant the green bean seeds directly into the garden and train the plants up a bamboo teepee. And the zucchini will grow as wildly as it likes!

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