Early Season Prep (In the Garden 2018 Episode 1)

Original Air Date: April 28, 2018

Early Season Chores

If you still have snow on your garden you can lay out a sheet of black plastic to melt the snow or scatter ashes from the wood stoves to hurry things along. Other early season chores:

Empty the compost bins by adding about a 5 gallon bucket to each 4’ x 4’ bed.

Pull any leftover weeds and clean up any stems or stalks.

Replace garden boxes that are falling apart.

Refresh the bark mulch in you pathways so they are about 6 inches deep and weeded.   

Fertilize each bed with 1cup each of sea kelp meal, organic fertilizer, limestone powder, Azomite or rock powder per 16 square feet of garden bed, or approximately a tablespoon per square foot of garden bed.

Raised Beds

If you are using raised beds you can start to plant hardy seeds right away because the soil will be dried out enough to get started.  But, if you are not using raised bed you’ll have to wait until the soil dries out enough to till and plant. To test the moisture content ball a handful of garden soil and squeeze when you open your hand if it stays a ball it is still too wet. If it falls apart you are good to go plant. So ‘As soon as the soil can be worked’ simply means that when the snow melts off your raised beds.

Early Season Veggies

Early season veggies are spinach, onion bulbs or plants, peas, radishes, mesclun mixes, leaf lettuce seeds and sets, Buttercrunch seeds and sets. Tat Soi, miner’s lettuce (Claytonia), corn salad (Mache) to start with.  Also leeks, early carrot varieties, turnips, purslane, water cress, radicchio, mustards, escarole and baby kale.

Listener Questions

Problems with Yellow Dock

Q: Merv from Marshfield called to ask what to do about a raised bed that he had of Horse Radish that was surrounded by yellow dock. It was really hard to get rid of and was choking out the horseradish.

A: Yellow dock has a tenacious root system so cutting it down is in effective.  It is typical of a weed in that it is a ‘plant out of place’ and has many uses as food and herbal remedies. The best way to control this kind of weed is to smother it, first cut it down with a mower or machete close to the ground.  Then lay black plastic down, two layer thick two feet awide around the entire bed.  Cover this with a double layer of landscape cloth and top with at least 6 inches of bark mulch.  Use landscape staples along the inside and outside edges of the cloth to keep it secured to the ground.  Add more bark as it get compacted. 

Small Carrots

Q: Rich in Sarksboro was wondering why his carrots were not very big, only about 5 to 6 inches.  He had planted them in a raised bed and expected a better yield of large carrots.

A: First look at the variety of carrots that were planted because early varieties are selected to be fast growing and only about 5 or 6 inches long.  Second check the actual depth of the raised bed.  With carrots and only long, long root crop needs about a foot of soil depth. Next, plant the large carrots varieties early in the season, the larger varieties need at least 75 to 80 even up to 90 days to mature.  Also remember that all plants are 90 % water and need regular weekly watering and twice a week through July and August.  Make sure to soak the bed or row so the water penetrated deep into the soil.  And my wife reminded me that you have to thin carrots early while they are pretty small, about 2” tall to about 3” apart.  It is best to use scissors to do the job without disturbing the roots of the plants left in the ground.

Next week: Salad Success, planting for a daily supply of fresh salad greens from your garden.