Kitchen Garden

Spring Notes From the Garden

Broccoli in Cages
Broccoli in Cages

Spring ends and summer begins with a full moon illuminating our yard and garden. Predawn darkness mitigated by silvery reflected light.

As daylight shortens its span spring gardening went well, setting the stage for a bountiful harvest.

There is a lot to learn in the garden and here are some notes from 2016.

“Temperatures over the three spring months averaged 50.5° or 2.2° above normal while precipitation totaled 11.69 inches or 0.50 inches less than normal,” state climatologist Harry Hillaker wrote in his May weather summary. “This ranks as the 25th warmest and 62nd wettest spring among 144 years of state records.”

The importance of water management in gardening cannot be overstated. The added heat, especially in May, along with less rain, created conditions that put pressure on seedling expectations. Adequate watering when it wasn’t raining helped establish the crops for the season. I developed a habit of watering in the morning shortly after sunrise. While I am not sure if timing during the day makes a difference, the plants are growing well and appear lush.

Spacing seeds and seedlings properly is more important than I was willing to acknowledge. The garden produced enough spinach, radishes and turnip greens for the table, but production would likely have increased if I’d spaced the seeds according to the packages. I learned this lesson with seedlings at the farm and get my yardsticks out when transplanting seedlings.

Protecting seedlings from ground-based predatory critters improved the success of seedlings after transplant. The 4-inch drainage tile cut in short lengths around selected seedlings improved the survival rate over last year. Using old tomato cages wrapped in chicken wire enabled all of the broccoli to survive this year. The broccoli really looks good.

Every kale plant survived transplant, all but one tomato plant, all but one hot pepper. Basil and bell peppers were more challenging. Because I started more seedlings than needed, I was able to fill in the gaps when they failed. The bell peppers had become root bound, and appeared to experience shock after transplant. I replaced the ones that died and as of yesterday every spot has a good looking plant in it.

The experiment with container carrots can be deemed successful. The earliest carrots are producing and are so tasty it’s hard to leave them in the ground long enough to mature. The carrots are growing in soil with a high percentage of compost in it. The compost always seems dry underscoring the need for water management. I make sure they have a good daily soaking.

Water is important to celery crops. I harvested the first stalks over the weekend and they punctuated the flavor of the soup I made with them. I cut the first bunch well above the ground line to give the plant a chance to grow new leaves. Last year the stubble continued to produce into the warmer winter months.

Mulching everything with grass clippings is important. I used clippings from two passes over the yard and may do a third. The water retention properties fit into the water management system, especially during hot sunny weather.

On the longest day of the year the garden is off to a great start.