Thursday, May 13, 2010

Garden Buddies, Last Frost Date

Well my garden buddies, we are past the last frost date. Now's the time to begin prep work on your warm weather veggies. Some years you can plant them out now. Given the cold-rainy ickiness that we've had for the past week, I would recommend you let things dry out at least a week before planting out. Tomatoes and peppers and eggplant, they all get really sulky in cold wet soil. It's much better to wait until things are really warm than to push it and send them all into shock.

But, you can start putting them on your porch during the day, and gradually start acclimating them from greenhouse conditions to garden conditions. They have to get used to things like wind and real sun and that is easier done when you can bring them back inside at night or during inclement weather. You can also start prepping the soil where the warm weather transplants will be set. Aerate the soil, with a hoe or a fork, add some compost, knock down any large weeds. If you want it really warm and toasty for the transplants you can pin down some black plastic to solarize the soil. (I don't, but some recommend it.) You'll want some sort of mulch on hand for when you transplant tomatoes. The best way to keep them disease free, (Dad wisdom here) is to never let the leaves get wet or muddy. Straw works, landscape fabric works, but have it ready so you can put it around the transplants as soon as they go in.

Beans can probably be planted as soon as the soil is dry enough to work with. But, if you prefer to plant by moon sign, I'd wait another week or two until the moon is waxing again. If you don't want to have to deal with trellis or poles, I highly recommend bush beans. Unlike the pole beans, bush beans will harvest in waves, 2 most years, 3 in an excellent year. This makes picking easier as you don't have to search every day for beans hiding in trellis, just watch the section and pick the whole thing once or twice.

Lettuces and other greens should be a few inches tall at this point, if not larger, with several true leaves and no flowers. Now's a good time to side dress them with some nice compost or worm castings, and a good time to nip weeds before they get out of hand. (If you have lambsquarters, chickweed, dandelions or purslane I'd recommend you leave them as they are just a nutritious as the lettuce and spinach you planted.) If you've got small little lettuce plants that are already sending up a flower stalk, that means they got stressed somehow and are "bolting," going to seed, and will probably be bitter.

Other things that should be up and going strong: Potatoes, onions, peas, garlic. If something isn't up by this point, I would recommend you dig down and do some investigating. It might be that the plant rotted, or didn't root right or was damaged somehow. Plug the holes with spare plants if you have them, or random plants/seeds. No need to let good real estate go to waste. Garlic and Onions will appreciate a nice layer of straw, to help keep all the nice rain from evaporating away. I usually don't put it on before the LFD because I don't want things to rot.

Carrots, Radishes, Parsnips, Kale, Turnips, Kohlrabi, these are all things where you might have started some a couple weeks ago and they are up in baby leaves, or you can start some now. These all do well with succession planting, so if you want, leave some room to do another row in a couple of weeks. Also set aside some seed to do a planting of these at the end of summer for fall harvest.

Cabbage and broccoli transplants can go in any time now. I highly recommend you cover them with some row cover or Reemay. In our area Imported Cabbage Moths will lay eggs on brassicas and their cute green babies will eat them to lace. A simple row cover over the plants will keep those pretty white mamas off your tasty brassicas. It also serves to ease the transition for those transplants, lessening the sun glare and temperature swings and wind exposure.

There you have it. Get out there and garden! The moon is almost new, which is a great time to transplant. Greens and lettuces and peas should be harvestable in a couple of weeks if they aren't already. Veggies are coming! I can hardly wait.

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