Kale+dazzling blue

Two Gardens in One--

A nursery bed is like a magic trick

Now is the time for gardeners in most places to start their fall crops.  But where can you put all of those fall vegetables? Many people wait until tomatoes and corn are over, so they have enough space--but by then it is too late and the plants never size up. 

Using a nursery bed is one of the tricks that can give you two gardens at once--your summer garden still in the ground, and your winter garden waiting its turn. Because the plants in the nursery bed are young, they are spaced closer than they will be later, so they take much less garden space.

How to Make  It

A nursery bed is just a piece of ground cultivated to a crumbly texture so that seedlings can grow well. Add compost, which contains substances that trigger germination and growth. Your nursery bed can be an unused bed in the regular garden, a raised box made of wood or blocks, or even a large tub.  At this time of year, it will need afternoon shade, so either site it to the east of something tall--like a house, shed, or row of corn--or use shade netting.

How to Use It

You can use a nursery bed, or part of it, for starting seeds instead of in flats or pots. But where it really comes into its own is to hold seedlings that are too large for the flat or pot and in danger of getting potbound.  At that stage, summer crops are normally planted into their permanent places. In the case of winter crops, though, those places are occupied by summer crops that we don't want to disturb. Instead, put them into a nursery bed, where they can grow until early fall.  It turns out that many winter crops like cabbage and broccoli actually do better if they are transplanted a couple of times. (Read more on this here.)

For example: You sow cabbage into a flat  or pots August 1st. By Sept 1st, the seedlings are ready for transplant. But you don't want to tear out a row of tomato plants Sept 1st to plant cabbages! So you put them into a nursery bed, at 8" spacing. At that spacing, they take up only 12 sq ft. When the tomatoes come out, your 35 cabbages go in at their final, 16" spacing, filling 50 sq ft. Result: you get two crops from that garden bed instead of one.

More information from the How-To section of our website:

For important info on transplanting specific vegetables, please see this article.

For more on winter gardening, please see the following articles:

Winter Gardening: Where and When
Winter gardening: How

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