Time To Start Your Garden

By Crystal Stevens

April is a wonderful time to start a garden. If you have a large garden space that gets plenty of sun, prepare your space as soon as the ground is thawed (typically mid-March). Use a broad fork or a potato fork to turn the top layer of soil over and gently break it up. Your goal should be a fine tilth soil. Be sure to add plenty of compost, bags of leaves, grass clippings, and green manure before you prep. These soil additions will feed your soil throughout the year. You can easily create raised beds with straw bales, cinder blocks, and untreated scrap wood, or heat-treated pallets.

In a raised bed, additions of any of the following layers would be helpful for creating good living soil and provide organic path- ways for roots: leaves, followed by straw, grass clippings, more leaves, and compost. Next, add half compost and half topsoil. Finally, your top layer should be well-decomposed compost mixed with topsoil. You want your top layer to have a fine tilth so that it is easy to sow seeds. In April, plant the following seeds directly in the ground: spinach, carrots, peas, chard, kale, salad mix, lettuce, radishes, beets, and turnips.

Another option is to purchase established vegetable plants and transplant them into your garden. Plant nurseries carry a variety of wonderful plants. Comfrey can be planted near raised beds. Comfrey leaves can be chopped and dropped and added to garden beds or at the base of perennials such as berries and fruit trees as a natural fertilizer. Gardens need to be weeded regularly. For young seedlings, be sure to keep the soil weed-free with hand tools. It’s a good idea to lightly weed small weeds from your garden daily or every other day using a stirrup hoe. Weeding on a regular basis will save you time in the long run and will improve the quality of your garden.

For transplants, the use of weed barriers such as weed cloths, sheet mulching, straw, and compost are important for suppressing weeds and retaining moisture. Use soaker hoses on your beds. Keep your seed beds well-watered until they sprout. Water on a regular basis once plants are established, though water needs vary from plant to plant. Adding native pollinator attracting flowers such as New England Aster, swamp milkweed, butterfly milkweed, coneflowers, coreopsis, and St. Johns wort will attract native pollinators, creating a thriving mini ecosystem and in turn will help to bring higher yields to your garden.

Tomatoes, winter squash, summer squash, cucumbers, melons, peppers, beans, okra, and herbs such as basil and dill can be planted in mid-late spring to enjoy in the summer and early fall. You may plant them from seed or transplants in your prepared garden beds. Perennial fruits are a wonderful addition to gardens. Elderberry, June berry, currants, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and bush cherries all grow well here and provide abundance year after year.

Crystal Stevens is regular contributor to The Healthy Planet. Crystal and her family own and operate Flourish, a micro-farm. GrowCreateInspire.com.