52 Weeks Fresh: Preparing the Garden (While Watching Television)

By: Michael Blakeney

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I love to eat (and I eat a lot).  More than 20 years of gardening have shown me how to grow amazing, delicious, healthful food at a fraction of market prices — and how to preserve the surplus to use all year long.

My garden in Bedford, N.Y., (about an hour north of midtown Manhattan) isn’t huge — about 3,000 square feet (pictured below) — but it provides abundant sustenance year-round. Over the course of this growing season, I’ll share what’s popping up, provide recipes, and come up with gardening tips and ideas. Curious about quinoa? Come along. Interested in dry beans? Those are growing too. Herbs for tea? I’ll also cover those.

At the end of each post, I’ll include a produce report to update you on what’s going into the ground, as well as thoughts on what you can harvest now.

Let’s get started.

First up: my trick to cheap and easy potting. I hate to waste anything, which is good, because frugality serves a gardener well. Instead of buying pots for starting seeds indoors, I make my own out of old newspapers. It’s an easy project — I do it while watching my favorite TV shows, and in just two hourlong episodes I can make more than100 pots using simply a few weeks of discarded Sunday papers.

The bonus is that the entire pot goes into the ground, which eliminates any root disturbance and planting shock — and it makes planting easy. The newspaper will eventually break down as compost (it’s just wood and soy ink), allowing roots to break through.

To make a pot, take a typical broadsheet newspaper page and cut three strips lengthwise. Then, roll the strip around a can (preferably a full can, as its weight will help the process). Once the paper is rolled around itself, fold the bottom edges like a pinwheel over the can edge. The top edge can be folded over itself about a quarter inch. Don’t worry if the resulting pots appear imperfect. Once situated together in a tray, filled with soil and watered, they become stable. The pots are great for tomatoes and other kinds of plants.

PRODUCE REPORT: Tomato plants out at the end of the month. Air and soil temperatures in the northeast are mild enough now for planting young tomatoes.

EAT WITH THE SEASON: Make a spring salad with dandelion greens and spinach, topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg and vinaigrette dressing!

Self-taught gardener Michael Blakeney enjoys his Bedford, N.Y., garden all year: working in it, watching it grow and eating it through every season.  A visual artist and arts educator, Mike has been gardening for 25 years. You can find him at mikegrowgarden.com.

So Much Pretty Food Here