This time of year is tricky for planting in gardens that do not have four-season gardening practices, so I’m posting a list that will get you through the next two weeks.
What’s so tricky? Frost.
Any seedling that you have growing should now be outdoors for at least the daytime hours when temps are above freezing. Watch out for wind, as your delicate babies can get burnt by a brisk, steady wind. Also, don’t water in a way that gets the entire plant wet when they are out in the sun, you’ll burn them right up. Water at the base of the plant into the soil.
If you have plastic caterpillar tunnels, you’ll need to keep an eye on rising temps inside the tunnel when the days are bright and sunny. On a night with frost, cold sensitive plants will need an extra layer of agribon inside the tunnels. Also, the soil will dry out quickly this time of year inside the tunnels, so make sure you have an irrigation system that helps you keep your plants watered. It’s easy to forget this basic task.
Our Task List:
- The rain has kept me from cleaning up last year’s mess as well as I would like by now, so that is a priority for me. This is where bugs and disease reside, lying in wait to decimate your best-looking plants, very quickly as the temperatures rise through the month.
- Brassicas, arugula, and radishes should be covered with agribon to protect them from the inevitable invasion of the flea beetle and cabbage moths.
- Repair and amend soil in raised beds that were not tended to in the fall before planting. For us, this includes adding compost and organic fertilizer, mowing down winter rye and tilling it in as green manure, laying irrigation lines and sometimes also laying black mulch prior to planting.
- If you haven’t already, plant these things as a priority: peas, potatoes, onions, lettuce mix, spinach, arugula, cilantro, broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards. These can be direct seeded once soil is workable in early spring.
- If you haven’t started tomatoes and peppers your best bet will be to purchase them from a local grower for your first succession in May and start some from seed for a second succession planted in June.
- Our frost date is Mother’s Day in Harper’s Ferry, WV. Look up your frost date so you can plan when to plant tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. You can also start a first succession of cucumbers now in seedpots. They start fast and you can just keep starting new plants every 2 weeks. This will help you keep up with threats like bacterial wilt and cucumber beetles.
- Start nasturtium, calendula, and sunflowers if you have room. Plan this out as you move plants into the garden.
- If you want to experiment, plant one or two tomatoes in the warmest, sunniest part of your garden and cover with agribon. If (when) the frost comes your plants will need another layer of protection and then a decent dose of fish emulsion fertilizer the next morning. If you do this, let me know how it goes. Good luck!
- Other plants that can be direct seeded if you have time and room: beets, celery/celeriac, turnips, and carrots. Once you see the cotyledons (first leaves) you can cover with a light layer of straw, but be forewarned that the straw may have seed and aggravate your weed issues. It is very important to make sure your carrots stay moist until they sprout. They take a long time (2 weeks) and can easily dry out during germination. While this is true of all direct seeding endeavors, carrots are particularly needy.
- Build new raised beds now. They will benefit from the rain and hot-cold cycles.
That should keep you busy and I’ll be back at the end of the month with an update on our market garden and a new task list to get you through the first week in May.