April 2009

The calendar says it is spring now, but it still feels like winter as I write. The little peas are still just peeking out of the soil. We’ve transplanted onions, choys, broccolis, kales and hardy lettuce, like the winter density variety. They all are alive, but not growing very fast. We will keep seeding trays of these same varieties for another month because we are expecting it to remain cold till May this year. In April we’ll seed, indoors in pots, the summer and winter squash, cucumbers, corn, pumpkin and later lettuces to transplant out after Mother’s Day. By then weather should be warming significantly.

This month you should continue to plant outdoors all the green leafy vegetables you want on your dinner plates this summer: colorful tangy mustard, tender sweet spinach, bok choy, and rapini or broccoli raab. These all provide interesting and varied stir fry ingredients. Usually we plant these seeds closely and then thin out the small ones for delicious early snacking. That will leave room for the remaining plants to mature without crowding. These plants like a rich soil, with compost or another organic nitrogen source and lots of water, which our April showers provide. If you haven’t added lime in a few years, mix a handful into the soil before you plant the Brassicas.

How much lime should you add? Testing your soil is always a good idea. Lime is slow to break down in soil, so it is safe to add about a cup every 5 feet of raised bed. But to really know the acidity of your soil, you can buy a new soil test kit each year or send in a soil sample to the University of Massachusetts. They have an inexpensive soil test that is very user friendly and accurate. Go online to http://www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest/ and download the form. If you plan to send in a sample this spring, collect the soil and let it dry on a tray inside for a few days. That way you don’t have to pay as much for shipping the heavy damp cup of soil. I recommend the soil test that includes checking percent of organic matter, as well as nutrients.

Carrots can be planted this month, but they have a few pests to be aware of. Firstly, the slugs enjoy the little seedlings. Also, the carrot rust fly will lay its eggs on the base of the stem for the larva to later feed in the roots. These maggots eat through the carrot leaving a trail of rust colored tunnels. Some people think that the wire worms (click beetle larva) make the rusty trails, but their damage is holes without the rust color. For slug and rust fly prevention, use a well anchored blanket of floating row cover as a barrier. Carrots can grow under the fabric all season with the sun and rain passing through the cover. You’ll need to remove it to weed the carrots once or twice, but keep the row cover edges firmly held against the soil with rocks or piles of soil so the pests don’t get under to feed.

Keep growing.

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