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Spring Cleaning for the Garden


Fri, May 4th, 2001
Posted in

Virginia CooperMonday, April 30, 2001

After a little rain last week and a lot of sunshine the flowers are really exploding out of the ground. Tulips and daffodils have been making a beautiful show. I have a few Forsythia bushes that are covered in bright, yellow blossoms. They would be fabulous next spring underplanted with blue Grape Hyacinth (Muscari) bulbs. I'll put that on my list!

This weeks' garden chore is more spring clean-up. As you remove those old stalks from last year, watch for volunteer seedlings from last years plants. Dill, Johnny Jump Ups, Borage are voracious reseeders and may need to be relocated or at least thinned out for best growth.

Check your compost pile. If you haven't turned it, (and you can make fine compost without turning), it may look like nothing has changed. Remove the top layer and you should find rich brown compost waiting to be used. Every plant should receive a scoop of compost as you plant. If you have a lot of compost you can use it as a top dressing over your beds. This way you are building up your soil and adding nutrients without chemical fertilizers. Rake it into seed beds before planting to get vegetables off to a good start.

Time for seeding cool season crops including spinach, radishes, onions, peas and kale. Some lettuces will do well if your soil is warm. It's a good idea to plant a row each week to have fresh salads every week.

What kind of trellis is best for your peas? There are lots of great options, from stakes with twine or string to woven wire fencing; from teepees and willow plant towers to plastic netting. The important thing is to get it in place right away as you seed, that way the peas will come up and not have to look very far to start their journey to the sky. If you use twine or string between posts be sure your posts are strong. My first year on the farm I used these beautiful pine poles from our woods. They looked great until the peas got about a foot tall, then they pulled those poles right over. I replaced them with steel fence posts. Never underestimate the power of your peas!

Now is also a good time to get out to the strawberry patch. Thin out plants if necessary. Weeds are easy to pull now while the plants are still small. Top dress with compost and you'll be ready for berry picking in a few weeks.

Strawberries benefit from yearly fertilizing whether with compost or commercial fertilizer; just be sure you apply any amendments before flowering begins. Plants fertilized during flowering or fruit production produce berries that are softer, of poor quality and do not keep well. More on strawberries and their diseases next week. Until then, share a smile with your neighbor and have a happy Mother's Day.

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