Mid April is the ideal time to open up the garden in Connecticut.
Soil turned and prepped for warm weather crops. Rhubarb, on the left, protected with spare stakes so as not to disturb the soil around them. A few forgotten garlic and lettuce survived the harsh winter and will give a special early treat.
Leaves provide a layer of mulch around berry bushes. Here are the first leaves and buds on a current bush.
To prepare organic vegetable garden beds I start by raking out the leaves (used to add a fresh layer of mulch around berry bushes). Sprinkle a layer of about half an inch each of composted cow manure, peat moss and compost soil over the established garden bed (see notes below if digging a new plot). The manure serves as an organic fertilizer, the pfeat moss helps condition the sandy Plainville soil (but will also help condition clay soils as well) and the compost soil does both. I use a pointed spade, push it 6 to 10 inches into the earth, lift and flip the entire area then rake it out with a bow rake.
Starting a new plot? Measure out the size garden you are planning. Remove the grass (a painstaking but essential first step). I have done this by pushing a spade into the grass, lifting then grabbing the grass to shake out the soil from the roots. My discarded grass goes into a wheel barrow to transport up into the woods where it will break down/compost with the leaves etc. Once the grass has been removed rake out to level the garden plot then follow the steps above. Depending on your soil quality you may need to add more composted manure, peat moss and compost soil. Also, if your soil is acidic like mine, add lime to “sweeten” the soil and add calcium.
The early crops I planted are snap peas, broccoli, beets, carrots, scallions, swiss chard, spinach and leafy greens. They can tolerate cool evenings and even frost (good thing because this spring has been unseasonably cool). For the snap peas I hammered 5′ metal stakes into the prepared soil and attached a wire garden fence for them to climb on. For any seeds that you are planting read the recommendations on the package and follow those. I use my grandparents’ and father’s easy method; draw a mini furrow into the soil with a hand spade sprinkle seeds cover furrow tap down with palms water and keep moist. (This will require thinning but it is fast, efficient and seed packets are inexpensive compared to the produce they yield.) The nice thing about April is that there are usually plenty of showers so mother nature will do most of the watering for you. It is important to keep the soil moist while seeds germinate and while they are delicate sprouts. I recommend investing in an oscillating sprinkler; they simulate a gentle rain and are hands free allowing you to do something else while the garden is watered.
Two weeks after planting cold weather crops there is life in my vegetable garden.
Sprouts- soon to be climbing on the fence, blooming and ultimately producing delicious snap peas.
Beet sprouts. They will need to be thinned but I wait until they all emerge and I see which are the strongest and healthiest.
Broccoli sprouts, also to be thinned as they grow.
The carrots are barely visible and as of yet, no sign of the scallions.
The spinach, planted in a large square. When it is time to thin the delicate baby greens will make a lovely salad.
The leaf lettuce (above) and mesclun mix lettuce (below) will also be thinned as they grow making for a lovely baby green salad mix.
Arugula (above) and swiss chard (below) will be adding to the salad bowl when it is time to thin.