April has us all wanting to return to the garden and shake off these winter doldrums. It also has a lot of weather surprises left in store as well. So, don’t rush the season! If you are one of the majority who feel like one seventy-degree day means spring is here and summer will be next week, step away from the plants. Please fight the overwhelming urge to plant your warm-season vegetables. Jack Frost may steal your glory. Unless, of course, you plan on trusting the weatherman and going out to cover things when the weather seems a bit unpredictable. If you are one of the many gardeners that suffer from I.G.S., maybe this list will help to appease your impatient tendencies.
If you are just chomping to get outside into the garden, here are some things you can do now and not jeopardize any plant life.
Plan for watering
Place a rain gauge near your garden to keep a record of rainfall. This will help you to decide when to water your garden. A general rule of thumb to remember is that your garden will need about 1 inch of water per week. If rain doesn’t fall you will have to water your garden yourself.
You may want to place a rain barrel under a downspout around your home. Elevate your barrel on brick, pavers, or cinder blocks. Add a hose connection about 3 inches from the bottom of the barrel. Connect an old water hose or two. stretch the hose(s) to the garden. In the portion of the hose that is actually inside the garden, drill several small holes along the length of the hose. Add a cap to the open end of the hose. When your barrel has water in it, open the spout and gravity will fill the hose and it will act as a soaker hose. However, a regular soaker hose will not work as there will not be enough water pressure to force the water through the membrane of the hose. Even if you don’t use the soaker hose method, a rain barrel is an excellent addition.
Planting SOME Things
At this point, there are some things that you can sow seeds for, like beets, carrots, radishes, and chard. Plants of broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, spinach, kale, celery, bok choi, cabbage, and lettuces may still be planted. Annuals that can go into the ground now are dianthus, petunias, and snapdragons. These can take a light frost after they have been in the ground a week. Here, at Mitchells, we try to find a week of weather without frost predicted, to take them out of the greenhouse to toughen them up, so they will be ready for you to plant. Some perennials can go into the ground now. Even here at the nursery we are still being cautious, because it is still likely to have a couple of frosty nights. We will put some of our tender plants on trailers so that they can be moved easily in and out of the greenhouse. After the warmer weather gets here to stay, then all of the plants can come out to stay as well. I know it is easy to get anxious to add some color and get your vegetables growing after a long winter, but, please be patient.
As the spring season gets started, begin a gardening journal. Be sure to start in March and just make lists of things you have done so far such as pruning and mulching, along with daily temps and rainfall. You might want to start it just a little bit earlier and make notes about any seed that you start inside for your garden. Knowing varieties, when they were planted, and when they germinated all the way to the time that it took from one step to the next. Then when you start into April, you can begin to record when you transplant them outside and what seeds you have sown directly into the ground. This will allow your mind some satisfaction next season to know what you did and when you did it. Trust me this truly helps with the impatience that is brought on by winter. Also, record rainfall amounts and high and low temps. You can look back next year and remember what you planted and when. Sometimes one’s mind isn’t reliable. I have customers that swear that they always plant tomatoes in March and get them here- not so. Very little will be ready to planted before April 15 for zone 7. That is the zone that we here at the nursery are in so we won’t have them for sale much before that.
So, if you are ready, spend the next couple of weeks making sure that you have all your ducks in a row and everything lined up for when the planting begins. It will make your life a bit easier to be so prepared.