On Your Mark; Get Set; Garden!

Oh my friends it’s springtime again
Buds are swelling on every limb
The peepers do call, small birds do sing
And my thoughts return to gardening

― Dillon Bustin, Almanac

Prime gardening season has officially begun! The time is now for starting potato tubers, sweet potato slips, asparagus crowns, and many other vegetables. And there is still time to direct seed lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard, kohlrabi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. But you must act fast! The season of spring is a fleeting one, and the window of opportunity to plant these vegetables is closing fast!


How did your garden grow last year? If your yield of fruits and vegetables was below your expectations, then now would be a good time to test your soil to see if it’s deficient in nutrients or too high or too low in pH. Depending on the results, you may want to work in some compost and organic fertilizer to replace the nutrients that were depleted by last year’s crop. Remember — feed the soil and the soil will feed your plants.

Now would also be a good time to lay down some mulch. Mulch will warm up your soil sooner, conserve moisture during those hot dry summer days, and reduce the number of weeds growing in your garden. Then you can spend less time weeding and watering, and more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.

For those of you who, like me, started your tomato seeds late last month or at the beginning of this month, by now, your seedlings are growing strong and healthy. If you are bound and determined to get tomatoes before your neighbors do, you can begin transplanting them into your garden, but you must protect them with a season extending device such as a bell cloche, cold frame, or Wall O’ Water. Tomatoes do not handle cold very well, and without protection, a surprise cold snap could kill your tomatoes or seriously impair their yield later in the season.

So carpe hortus (seize the garden), before this prime planting time slips through your fingers!


Those Darn Weeds!



Weeds. Those evil plants that rudely push their way into your garden, crowd out your vegetable crops, rob them of nutrients, reduce your yields, and generally look plain ugly. And the time and sweat you have to put forth to yank those interlopers out of your garden has you uttering words a lot stronger than golly gosh and gee willikers. So what can you do? How can you slow or stop these green varmints from setting up shop in your garden? Well, there are three ways to deal with them.
Herbicides — I mention it, but I do not recommend it. First, herbicides are non-specific. There is no one herbicide that kills only crabgrass or another that kills only Creeping Charlie. Herbicides generally will kill anything green. So, if you’re not careful with how you use them, you will wind up killing your vegetable crops right along with the weeds. Even worse — if the wind blows the herbicide residue onto your neighbor’s roses, this will definitely win you no friends.

Mechanical methods — This includes hoeing, digging, and pulling. When using these techniques, it’s important to handle the weeds the same way they vote in Chicago — early and often. It’s far easier to mechanically remove the weeds while they’re few and small. If you wait too long they will be well-entrenched and more difficult and time-consuming to remove. Furthermore, the mature weeds will shade your vegetable plants and rob them of nutrients.

Mulch — This is by far the best way to deal with weeds. Laying down a layer of mulch — either organic (e.g. corncobs, straw, etc.) or inorganic (e.g. black plastic, paper, etc.) after preparing your soil but before planting your vegetables, then either moving aside the mulch (organic) or cutting holes where you want to plant (inorganic) will essentially place a barrier on your soil that will reduce or completely block the sunlight reaching the weeds, thereby robbing them of an essential factor needed for growth, and essentially preventing the weeds from out competing your garden vegetables. And of course, fewer weeds, means less tedious, back-breaking work for you. But for mulch to work, you have to lay it down before you plant your vegetables. If you’re already plagued with weeds, it’s too late. Also, mulch is effective only on annual weeds. Perennial weeds such as thistle or dandelion will not be stopped by mulch.

So which method will you use to control weeds? Choose the correct one, and you’ll thank me — very mulch.