Saturday, March 29, 2014

Get Your Garden Going!

If you are not planning on doing some gardening next week, you should be. The weather in the Valley is predicted to be gorgeous, birds are singing, bees are buzzing, and buds are bursting on fruit trees. The month between the equinox and the average frost date of April 20, is the prime time for planting cool season crops, either from seed or started plants. The weather (hopefully) will not heat up until June, so you have roughly 70 days for crops to mature. That is enough for peas, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes and green onions to be direct seeded, and sufficient for broccoli and cabbage transplants from the garden center to go in the ground.

Now is also the time to plant cilantro and parsley seeds, or to transplant starts of these cool season herbs. Quick maturing greens, like arugula and various mustards, will also have time to crop before the weather gets too warm and they go to seed. Don't forget that spring-planted cilantro will bear an abundant crop of coriander seed in July if it is allowed to bolt. I always plant extra just for this purpose.

Most parts of East Tennessee are receiving rain this weekend. That, together with the warm spell coming next week, should bring earlier seeds out of the ground. Be sure to thin radishes almost as soon as they are up, for best root production. Keep them about 2 inches apart each way.

Thin green crops like spinach and lettuce to stand at least four inches apart each way. Improved air circulation around the plants helps prevent fungal attacks.

Vegetable gardeners who use raised beds should bear in mind that one DIS-advantage is their tendency to dry out rapidly. Check below the soil surface every day or so in dry weather, and irrigate before plants begin to show signs of stress.

Cool spring weather is ideal for flea beetles, which may attack newly-emerged potato foliage, filling the leaves with pinholes. A floating row cover over the bed helps prevent the beetles from gaining access to your plants. Because they are chewing insects, flea beetles are susceptible to ingestion poisons like nicotine, spinosad, pyrethrins, and neem oil. All these are suitable for organic vegetable production when used according to label directions.

And finally, I know everyone is just dying to plant tomatoes, but wait at least another month. If the soil is too cold, they will just sit there, anyway, and you won't get tomatoes any earlier. Tomato geeks who want to employ extraordinary measures like the "Wall O Water" are welcome to have at it, but the rest of us should just wait until the soil warms up. There will be plenty of time for late tomatoes, peppers and beans to follow all the early crops that will finish up in June, also.



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