The early spring garden

For a lot of people, the weather in March is a mixed bag. In Recycla’s home state of Virginia, the weather was glorious (sunny and 70s) for a week, then they got snow on Sunday, and now things are chilly and in the upper 40s. Long-term predictions have the weather back near 70 by the end of the coming weekend. Definitely a mixed bag.

Regardless of the temperature, now is a good time to work in your garden.  In recent weeks, Recycla has been taking care of general cleaning up — raking the last of the leaves from the fall, picking up sticks, cleaning out the kitchen garden and flower beds, and so forth.  She also thoroughly turned the compost bins, which desperately needed it after three months of only minimal attention.

After that, she started planting — spinach, kale, lettuce, and peas, with more vegetables to come in April and May.  Recycla can already taste the fresh salads, baby peas with butter, and lightly steamed asparagus. Frankly, that asparagus bed is the only thing that kept her head from exploding when the snow arrived on Sunday.

If you are planning to have spring veggies, now is the time to plant.  Here’s what you need to do:

First, you need to work the soil a bit to aerate it and get it loose enough to plant in. Recycla prefers to use a manual cultivator (see photo at right), but rakes and shovels do the job just as well.  Recycla does not use a rototiller since it would upset the delicate balance of the soil. This is not a major chore — just loosen things up a bit and you’re good to go.

Next, while you’re working the soil, weed, weed, and then weed more.  Now is the time to get out the stuff that’s not supposed to be there or else you’ll be fighting the weeds all summer. Yes, it’s a pain in the rear, but it’s a little now or a lot later.

Then, if you’re going to use soaker hoses to irrigate your garden, lay them out before planting, so that you don’t have to disturb the plants later on.  Recycla  uses landscaping staples to keep her hoses in place. It’s very important to make sure your hoses are going the right direction before you put them in place — last spring, Recycla spent an hour on her hands and knees only to discover later that the end of her soaker hose that was closest to the faucet was not the correct end for attaching to the faucet. There’s a “male” end and a “female” end — don’t mix them up.

After you’ve done all that, it’s time to plant.  Spinach, lettuce, and other greens are easy to plant from seed.  You pretty much just plant them and walk away until it’s time to harvest.  Recycla tried carrots from seed for the first time last year and that was successful, so she’ll plant them again this year.  She usually plants broccoli and cauliflower from seedlings, not seeds.

Finally, after you plant, mulch.  This is a critical step that should not be skipped.  Mulching keeps out weeds, but also serves the dual purpose of keeping seeds and seedlings warm this time of year and then keeping plant roots cool and moist later on in the summer.

If you plant seedlings, make sure you protect them on the colder nights when the temps are around freezing.  Row covers or even plastic gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut off should do the trick.

If all this seems like a lot, break your projects into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Recycla’s kitchen garden is divided into seven areas this year and so far, she has prepared five  of them.

If you need advice on specific things that you want to grow, check out Organic Gardening’s website.

And just remember, all this work now leads to fresh veggies later!

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4 thoughts on “The early spring garden

  1. Haha! We still have a foot of snow on the ground in some places. I’m so jealous that you’ve begun your planting, but ’round these parts, no one plants anything ’til after Mother’s Day. Unless they have a greenhouse. Best of luck!

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