Welcome back to Tuesdays in the Garden! Since the last post about Spring Gardening Tasks, we have experienced a bit of a setback here in New England. The set back you ask? The dreaded "s" word that does not come out of my mouth easily around this time of year. Yes, it snowed last night. The flowers, animals and I are all in an equal state of confusion. The rabbit that lives under the shed along with the neighborhood turkeys are all a no show today. I don't blame them. I'm really happy that I decided to add a hoop house to my raised garden bed. Instead of having a state of induced panic rush over me at the sight of this unwanted white blanket, I can breathe a bit. Inside my raised garden bed are both my winter planted and spring planted vegetables, growing and waiting to be picked. Now, although this hoop house can't cover my whole yard, at least I know these healthy crops will not be toast. I'm hoping that the temperatures raise soon, and the spring bulbs will bounce back from this.
I've learned no matter how much I want to get out in the yard and do certain things like plant here in zone 6a, it's better to wait. Cleaning up around the yard is still necessary along with starting seeds indoors and prepping garden beds for the new season. It's just best not to get ahead of myself and put new plants anywhere that isn't protected. Some things like my window box do well no matter the temperature outside because they are insulated by the house. Other than that, my flower beds still have to wait. The average last frost date for my zone is somewhere between April 16th to April 30th. I'm still not completely out of the danger zone. In this post, I will be sharing with you the first steps I take when transitioning my garden from winter to spring. Sometimes when you get caught in garden seasonal purgatory, it can be hard to figure out what to do. There are a few key steps I take to set myself up for a happy gardening season!
The Winter Vegetable Garden
I was downright determined last year to overwinter my edible crops. I had a modest budget, but was convinced I could give it a try. I built my very own hoop house with some inexpensive materials. You can read about it's humble beginnings here. I received an abundance of advice from books, friends, and Pinterest and went straight to work. I set zero expectations so I wouldn't be disappointed if it didn't work out. It cost around 80 dollars, not including the seeds I had already purchased in advance. This project gave me a wealth of knowledge money couldn't buy (I'm serious!) If you want to see a full list of what I decided to try growing, you can find it here. Shown is a picture of my vegetable garden last December.
I noticed right away that things began to sprout during the fall. The vegetables that seemed to take off during the winter were spinach and broccoli. Everything else grew, but at a much slower rate. I noticed my kale starting to sprout in late December, but then some heavy ice ended up crushing the tiny plants. I also observed that the crops I planted close to the edge like Miner's lettuce and arugula didn't fair well. The vegetables planted closer to the middle were protected from the cold. I also ended up adding a few more stone blocks to hold down the tarp, as well as a PVC conduit pipe across the top of the hoop house for support during the heavy winter storms. In the beginning of February, I noticed my peas immediately starting to take off. Towards the middle of the month, I observed my Elephant garlic tips starting to show. At the end of February, I was excited to see more of my peas beginning to grow. February is ridiculously early for a crop like that to be growing here in Massachusetts!
Transitioning The Garden
Visualizing A Garden Plan: Now is the perfect time to transfer those great ideas in your head onto paper. Once you do this, it really helps you visualize your vegetable garden. In return, the ideas you have become more tangible. Pick which spots would work best for different vegetables. Take into consideration the dimensions of your full grown plants. Plants that grows vertically don't need an unnecessary amount of width like pole beans. On the other hand, vegetables like bush beans might need a little bit of a wider container. When you take care of all these things in advance, it makes the gardening season go so much smoother. Having all of this down on paper also really helps when venturing to your local garden center. It's so much easier to maintain a budget on seeds and plants when you have your garden plan in hand.
Clean Up Berry Plants & Patches: In my yard, I have a strawberry patch that is 5' x 6'. During the fall and winter, I leave debris like brush and fallen leaves covering my dormant fruits. In the early spring, it is important to clean this up and make sure your plants have plenty of room to grow. The earlier you start weeding around your berries, the easier it is. I've found that weeds can quickly take over your healthy plants, and it's almost impossible to get rid of them all late in the season. Add fresh, new compost and soil to the patch to maintain healthy, ripe fruit. Early to mid spring is also a great time to plant new blueberry and raspberry bushes. When it comes to blackberries, it's time to prune the tips of your blackberry canes. This will help the plants yield more fruit. Make sure to dispose of dead or diseased looking canes.
Get Your Game Face On: Like any task you may want to accomplish in life, it's better to come prepared. Now is the time to take inventory of the garden tools in your shed. If you are missing an important tool, adding it to your arsenal now is better than doing it mid season. Also take note on how many bags of soil you need, how much compost the garden will require and the amount of mulch necessary to maintain a weed free space. Nobody wants to be adding a large amount of this under the hot July sun. It's much easier to put this all down before the first heat wave is in sight.
Growing Spring Vegetables
It is so rewarding to have vegetables ready to be harvested in spring. After that long, dreary winter, you have some edibles ready to be picked. I've been periodically caring for and checking on my crops since December. When the first day of spring finally arrived, I decided to see what would be ready for spring harvesting. Here is a small list of what is growing strong:
-Amsterdam Prickly Seeded spinach
-De Grace snow peas
-Little Marvel peas
-Purple Top White Globe turnips
-Zebrune shallot onion
-Yellow flat Dutch onion
-Fordhook Giant swiss chard
-Komatsuma Tendergreen mustard greens
-Japanese Giant Red mustard greens
-Dwarf Siberian Kale
Tuesdays In The Garden
Now it's time to head over to some other great posts being featured this week. Click either the picture or the links to check out some other helpful spring tips. We are covering everything from transitioning seasons, tips & techniques, building healthy soil, must have garden apps and companion planting!
Shell | Frugal Family Home
Jami | An Oregon Cottage
Michelle | Simplify, Live, Love
Pam | House of Hawthornes
Diane | Homemade Food Junkie
Now that I have finished this post, I must get back to my snow covered reality. Everything is on hold right now until New England finally realizes it's spring again. I must practice my patience and continue to map out my final plans as well as focus on seed starting indoors. Once that snow finally melts and the frost date has past, it's go time! Do you have any tips when it comes to transitioning your garden from winter to spring? Any edibles ready to be harvested or flowers about to bloom soon where you live? I would be very happy to live vicariously through you while I wait for these freezing temperatures to pass. Comment below or tweet me pictures @thefreckledrose on Twitter. I will keep the faith that all my crops make it through this minor weather setback unscathed.
In Case You Missed It-Spring Gardening Tasks