The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

April showers and umbrellas – The month can bring all kinds of surprises and can even include a little bit of snow, but only enough to melt your heart or bring a burst of excitement. There’s nothing as graceful and dainty as a warm April shower patting down on an umbrella. In this 21st-century, April showers are few and far between but they are always welcome. The month of April is fickle, unpredictable as well as filled with surprises and perhaps the delight of several hefty April showers bring on those May flowers!

Still time for a lazy man bed of hours potatoes – The Irish potato crop should be well on its way now that we are into mid April. You still have time to plant a lazy man potato bed and expect good results because you can pamper and baby up a bed of potatoes, use the water wand or sprinkle can to keep them irrigated and apply liquid fertilizer every 10 days. Your tender loving care will boost growth and assure a harvest of clean potatoes in late July. For lazy man, bed of 4 x 8‘ bed works well. Always sow whole potatoes because cut potato eyes will mildew, rot and mold. Prepare the soil in the bed and make 3 10 inch furrows 8 feet long. Sow the seed potatoes 10 to 12 inches apart on a layer of Pete Moss applied to bottom of the prepared furrow. Cover the potatoes with another layer of Pete Moss, water with spray cans or water wand, and then cover with soil. Tamp down the soil with a hoe blade. Cover the whole bed with a layer of crushed leaves. Apply liquid fertilizer every 10 to 12 days and water lightly when needed. Potatoes raised in beds are easy to harvest, are clean and mud free and best of all, mostly weed-free.

Don’t let last frost date fool you – April 15, 2018 was the so-called last frost date, but remember it is still fickle April and the soil is still very cold even if we receive no more frost. Warm weather vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, okra and lima beans will perform better and without the risk of stunted growth and low germination ratio if you wait until the warm nights of May. With the cost of tomato and pepper plants, it’s not worth the risk and money, and time wasted. Just wait until warm temperatures of the merry month of May so you will only have to sow or plant just one time. After all, everything has a time and season to grow – we just have to hang in there and be patient!

A quick growing row of mixed greens – One tender vegetable that thrives in cool April garden plot soil is mixed greens with the harvest date of 45 to 50 days. We made a few dollars as a 12-year-old boy by raising a large mixed green patch where my father would later plant the summer vegetable garden. I look back now and realize that after prepping the soil, buying and selling the seed and then harvesting and delivering the greens door-to-door, I may not have made that much money but we did make a lot of the neighbors happy. I learned a valuable lesson and that was that gardens are not about money, but about being a neighborhood friend and serving the community. Back to the mixed green row in today’s garden plot, you can get a lot of harvest out of the 50 foot row of greens or even a 4 x 8‘ bed. Two ounces of seed will easily plant a 50 foot row and be ready to harvest in 50 days. Ask the hardware or seed store to mix the greens for you. All of them cost the same amount per ounce and they will mix them in any ratio you desire or you can just plant all curly mustard or kale or tender green. There are many varieties of greens you can mix together including curly mustard, kale, Florida broadleaf, tender green, and leafy turnip. Sow the tiny seed in a furrow three or four inches deep and cover lightly with soil and tamp down with the hoe blade. As the greens sprout and grow, “hill up” soil on those sides of the row. Greens can be frozen or canned or eaten fresh salad or boiled in a pot with some chopped bacon bits or low and light calorie margarine with chowchow relish spread on top. Remember – all greens are low in acid, so when canning, they require 50 minutes of processing time at 10 pounds pressure in the pressure canner. Canning in a hot water bath canner is not safe. A good way to can greens is to use a food chopper to chop the pre-cooked greens before filling the jars.

The dogwood winter now here – The dogwood blossoms are winding their way down and their leaves are showing up to overshadow the blossoms (definitely larger than a squirrel ear!) This is the season of April that is known as “dogwood winter”. Cool nights, cool, damp soil and perhaps a light frost. It is definitely not time to plant warm weather crops unless you just love to repeat the process in mid-May. Why waste time, labor and money?

Do not mow down spent hyacinth and jonquil spikes – The spring bulbs may have completed their blooming, but the spikes of the spring blossoms are still serving an important purpose in propagating next season’s blooms. The bulbs underneath the spikes are now gaining strength, multiplying, and even now they are shaping up for next years blooms. Don’t disturb or mow them down, but mark where they are and water once each month.

Ray Baird