Once the frosts are gone you want to get your soil ready for planting by digging in amendments. Vegetable gardens are heavy feeders so rich soil is important. If you’ve prepared your vegetable plots with lots of organic matter, you are ready to start planting vegetables. Stay away from manure for root vegetables as it causes them to fork. Some of the most tender vegetables like cucumbers and beans may be a risk for even the mildest frosts, but you can take the chance if you’d like. Most of the cool-weather crops like lettuce, broccoli and cabbage are likely to bolt (send up long flowering shoots and become bitter) as soon as it becomes hot so they can be planted the earliest . Peas also will be likely to succumb to mildew as soon as weather turns hot. If you live in a mild winter climate, these crops are ideally planted in the autumn to grow as winter crops. They will handle a light brush or two of frosty nights, but won’t do well if it really gets hot. But tomatoes, peppers of all varieties, eggplants and squashes should be ready to take off as soon as they are planted in spring warmth in any area. While you are preparing for spring, you might want to add a raised vegetable garden to make maintenance easier and discourage damage by pests and pets.
The hillsides are blazing with wildflowers in spring. Check out the wildflower page in this blog to help you with identification.) Mustard, Lupins (yes, those are what cause the fields of purple you notice along the sides of the road) and plants native to your own area herald the springtime warmth and lengthening daylight.
There will be a downside to the lovely weather in spring, however. The pests will be enjoying it, too. Beware of coatings of aphids on the soft new growth of vegetables, roses and other plants in your garden. If you catch them early, a good squirt with the garden hose should wash off enough pests to keep numbers down. But you will have to be vigilant and keep the washing up or the pests will proliferate and you will have to resort to insecticides. Please consider starting with the gentler materials like insecticidal soaps. These are better for our health and that of the environment even if they may not be quite as efficient as some of the stronger poisons.
Keep weeds pulled while they are small and before they set next year’s seeds or compete for soil nutrients. Hand-pick snails, slugs and caterpillars. Put up rabbit or deer fencing and under-wire garden areas with hardware cloth or chicken wire to protect from gophers or moles. Try to use poisons carefully and only when necessary. Although we may not like the behaviors of all those natural critters, they do have their place in the balance of nature. The better we can live in harmony with them, the more likely it is that all of us will be able to share this beauty in safety.
Spring time is a busy time in the garden. Preparation for things to come mixes with planting and maintenance. If you keep up with a little bit of everything, your garden is more likely to be successful this year. As always, preparation in spring will pay off later.
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