Don Rosenberg, owner of Instant Organic Garden, said, "Although you still have time to plant a spring garden, the time to start planning your summer crops is now."
According to Rosenberg, April 15 is the approximate planting day for summer gardens - usually after the last frost date.
Here are some tips he has provided on transitioning from spring to summer beds, which plants work best for small gardens, and the basics of pest control and prevention.
When using raised beds - as Rosenberg advocates for busy families with limited space and time for gardening - consolidate space by using the same beds for spring and summer gardening.
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Not only does it save space, but it also improves the quality of your soil by continually using it, said Rosenberg, an organic gardening expert with more than 25 years of experience.
"You simply make room to plant the summer seeds, while gradually harvesting the spring crops," he said. Remove plants that are "bolting" - sending up flowering stalks - or wilting, and plant seeds and transplants there, he said.
Rosenberg, a Charlotte resident since 1981, describes spring plants as a "giant salad bowl," giving examples including lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes and beets, whereas summer plants are tropical plants, like cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, eggplants and squash, he said.
When choosing vegetables, Rosenberg suggested thinking of your garden as "the 'American Idol' for vegetables."
"You have your favorites, the regulars and the new contestants. If one of the new ones doesn't perform well, vote them off and try something new next season," he said.
Rosenberg suggests those planting in small beds shouldn't plant big crops, like watermelon, pumpkin, cantaloupe, corn or okra. These plants take up too much space and don't provide as much crop per dollar. He compares tomatoes and corn to prove his point.
"A 3-foot-by-8-foot bed might grow 20 ears of corn, worth $10 at the grocery store. Just two square feet used for growing a single tomato plant might grow 50 tomatoes, which is worth about $100," Rosenberg said.
As for pest control, Rosenberg said, the best way to keep a garden bug-free is to grow healthy plants, using good, well-drained soil and organic fertilizers.
He also suggests that if you do have a bug problem, don't eradicate all the bugs: define your solution based on the specific problematic bug and the crop it's harming - doing so in the least harmful way, with all-natural remedies.
If you're interested in learning more about Rosenberg's gardening methodology, visit his website: www. instant organic garden .com .
He also has written a book titled "No Green Thumb Required!" that explains the basics of growing an organic garden with raised beds. It's available on his website and through Amazon's Kindle store. He also is working on an organic gardener's cookbook, and he teaches classes on gardening basics at Central Piedmont Community College and Saint Gabriel Catholic Church.
Rosenberg will be answering gardening questions at his business booth at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show from Feb. 29-March 4. He also will be participating in two panel discussions at the show about the value of nutrition, as well as two more presentations on gardening basics and maximizing productivity.