Spring forward, with a spring in my step, knowing it only gets better as we gain a minute or so of daylight each day leading to the summer solstice. The vernal equinox means the daylight hours are as long as the nighttime hours, which not only makes us humans feel livelier and more energetic, but signals a time of re-growth and re-birth both in plant and animal life.
From a gardener’s point of view, spring is a time of hectic activity. Not only is the soil warming up but there are finally enough daylight hours to sustain plant growth. Here in the northern hemisphere, we must move fast to take advantage of the growing season. If you haven’t already started your seedlings to transplant outside, now is the time. When choosing seeds, always look at the days to maturity stated on the front of the seed packet, as there is no point planting seeds that take longer than your growing season. Start your heat lovers, such as tomatoes, peppers & squash indoors, but don’t start all these varieties at the same time. Tomatoes should be started mid-March but wait until later in April to start the squash, pumpkins and peppers, and it’s best to sow your cucumber seeds directly into the ground, once the soil has warmed up later in May, as they don’t like to be disturbed. The common mistake of the home gardener is to set aside a garden day and start all the plants on that day. This might be easiest for you, but it’s not great for the plants as each variety comes with a different set of requirements, and seeds that are started too early will get stressed by the environment and not produce as well as you might hope.
When you are ready to transplant your little seedlings or nursery bought starter plants, remember to “harden” them off before planting them into the garden. Don’t eliminate this crucial step, as “soft” plants which have been moved from the protection of your house or greenhouse need to experience the breeze, feel the rain, and suffer through nighttime drops in temperature before withstanding the shock of having their little roots disturbed, while struggling with the real world.
Spring’s welcome arrival inspires one great big to-do list. If you’re wondering where to start, I’m happy to share this week’s to-do list with you. My list evolves as we go along, depending largely on the weather, what we observe in the soil, and how our seedlings are coming along. Not to mention the stuff I do that’s not on the list. A confession here, sometimes I add things to my list that I’ve already done, just for the pleasure of crossing them off!
1. seed peas and set out pea supports
2. set out, or seed sweet peas – provide support
3. turn compost pile
4. sow carrots & beets
5. harden off and then transplant early cabbage seedlings
6. chit potatoes
7. thin turnips & radishes in big greenhouse
8. make a succession planting scheme
9. move all the onions and cole seedlings from the small, heated greenhouse to the big, unheated greenhouse
10. prune roses
11. tidy and top dress herb gardens
In a couple of weeks, we should be able to harvesting salad greens, supplemented with baby kale which is coming on like crazy in the big greenhouse. We’re all looking forward to eating fresh, tender young vegetables again.