Getting into the spring garden
Gardeners make endless choices, but they can’t choose the weather. Experienced gardeners know better than to work wet soil or plant heat-loving crops until the soil is warm. Newer gardeners will notice that last year’s timetable looks nothing like this year’s.
Our cool and wet spring is what we have, so here are some strategies to work with it:
1. Try raised beds. Beds established above ground level will warm up more quickly and dry out faster. Build rectangles about 2 1/2 feet wide and several feet long from cedar or safely treated wood. Fill the frame to a depth of one foot if you plan to include root crops.
The growing mix could be equal parts of garden soil, sand and compost; some gardeners include peat. Top the mix with 1-2 pounds of complete fertilizer (10-10-10) per 100 square feet of bed. Mix thoroughly prior to planting.
As plants grow and the weather warms, use clean grass clippings as a mulch (do not use grass recently treated with pre-emergent herbicide).
Vegetables, strawberries, herbs, and flowers will all do well in raised beds.
2. Use floating row covers. Once you are able to plant some early varieties, a lightweight floating row cover will allow 85 percent of light to penetrate along with air and water.
However, the temperature for the soil under the covers will be at least five degrees higher than ambient air, and the force of stormy rains and winds will be moderated.
Row covers may be used on raised beds or conventional gardens. Cut to size needed; place over newly seeded soil or small transplants; secure all sides of the row cover with rocks.
Row covers may be removed when desired, saved, and reused in fall to extend the growing season.
3. Adjust plans. If you experience considerable delay in planting, you may decide to substitute some shorter-season varieties.
This could be a year when a variety maturing in 72 days will be a more practical choice than one requiring 85. In addition, it is not too late to start seeds indoors, especially if the long-term forecast is problematic.
Right now: When you can, visit your favorite spring wildflower site. Bloodroot and Dutchman’s breeches are blooming, and many other wildflowers are finally up.
Needle browning or yellowing in all sorts of conifers is most likely due to winter desiccation. If plants are not too badly damaged, they should show normal spring growth.
If you intend to plant new conifers, check on recommended varieties for this area, and try to plant in sites that provide some protection from winter winds.