It seems that spring is in the air with the recent change to daylight-saving time, yet I feel that there is still plenty of winter left to come. However, this should not stop us from planning for spring landscaping options and browsing through all the seed and garden catalogs that have been hitting mailboxes.
Gardeners who start seeds indoors usually begin researching varieties and placing orders during the winter months. Every year the Cornell Garden-Based Learning program in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University (gardening.cornell.edu) makes the selection process a little easier for gardeners. They produce an annual publication, Selected List of Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners in New York State, which is a wonderful resource and potential time-saver for busy garden enthusiasts.
Vegetable varieties listed in the publication should be well-adapted for New York state home garden use, offer relatively high quality, be dependable, possess disease and insect resistance when possible, and have a relatively long harvest period. Also listed are the key characteristics of vegetables from A (asparagus) to Z (zucchini) and everything in between! You can download the information free from hort.cornell.edu/gardening/vegvar
If you have never planted a bare-root seedling or transplant, it is not difficult, especially if you remember a few important points.
First, plant the seedlings as soon as possible after you pick them up. If you cannot plant them immediately, you must keep the roots moist, but do not submerge then in water. This will kill them. Leave the seedlings in the plastic bag they were shipped in and store them in a cool, dark location. It may be necessary to occasionally open the bags and sprinkle water on them to keep them from drying out.
Hand-planting is recommended and is completed by first digging a round hole at least 1 foot in diameter. Spread the roots out in all directions and carefully pull the dug soil back over the roots. Lightly tamp the soil down to ensure good root-soil contact. Keep the root collar (where the seedling was planted in the nursery) at the finished soil level. Then water the seedling — this will allow the soil to settle, eliminate any air pockets and provide moisture to the roots. Keep the new plant well-watered during the season, especially during dry periods. A general rule of thumb is 1 inch of rain per week.
Enjoy your time planning for this coming growing season.