Tag Archives: preparing

April Gardening in Connecticut

Mid April is the ideal time to open up the garden in Connecticut.IMG_0092
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.IMG_0093
 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.IMG_0086
Beet sprouts. They will need to be thinned but I wait until they all emerge and I see which are the strongest and healthiest.IMG_0087
Broccoli sprouts, also to be thinned as they grow.IMG_0088
The carrots are barely visible and as of yet, no sign of the scallions.IMG_0089
The spinach, planted in a large square. When it is time to thin the delicate baby greens will make a lovely salad.IMG_0090
The leaf lettuce (above) and mesclun mix lettuce (below) will also be thinned as they grow making for a lovely baby green salad mix.IMG_0091

 Arugula (above) and swiss chard (below) will be adding to the salad bowl when it is time to thin.IMG_0095


Planting Garlic in the Fall

DSC_0017The last task of the vegetable gardening season is planting garlic. Once the killing frost (mwahaha) has taken the remaining plants they are pulled up and piled into the compost, the earth is turned, compost soil and manure are mixed in and the rows for garlic are furrowed.
DSC_0015 DSC_0016This year I ordered 2 lbs of organic Music Garlic from Peaceful Valley which translates to 16 heads/88 cloves.  After separating the cloves (careful not to break the skins around the individual cloves) the task of placing them root side down and covering with soil is easy.
DSC_0018My rows are a foot apart but you can go as close as 8 inches, planting depth is 3-4 inches in CT and the cloves are spaced 5-6 inches apart. I  supplemented with 14 cloves from garlic purchased at the grocery store to finish off the third furrow. I know, poor planning, but this is the first year that I actually ordered garlic before it was sold out. Waiting until October in past years I was forced to use grocery store garlic if I was going to plant my own- which, by the way, works. Once all of the cloves have been placed in the furrows (assembly line for efficiency) cover with soil, compress and wait.
DSC_0019The only evidence of the garlic are the footprints from my clogs that compressed the soil. Xav always makes fun of my clogs but honestly, they are super versatile. He even used one of my clogs as a hammer recently.