First, we lifted the soil with our new broadfork (left), giving its ecosystem some air without disrupting its structure. We mixed in some compost and made some furrows where we spaced out the seeds of future beets, turnips, Swiss chard, lettuce, watermelon radishes and arugula.
We noticed that the spinach and pea seeds that we planted on April 7 have poked their little heads out of the ground. I planted carrots in two metal buckets on April 6, but they’re taking longer to put in an appearance.
April sowings bring May flourishes, and these vegetables don’t mind cold nights. Some do like it hot, and those vegetables are still growing under lights on our windowsill: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and basil. Seedlings of broccoli and leeks are outside under plastic in a hoop house until they’re big enough to transplant into the garden. Squash and cucumber seeds go directly in the ground when the soil is warm.
At left is the plan for most of our 20 garden beds. We’ve kept records of what has been planted in each bed in previous years, so that we can rotate our crops. We’re trying to do more “succession planting” this year, such as putting broccoli where it will be harvested in time to put tomatoes and eggplant in the same beds, and spring spinach where the zucchini will later grow. We’re also trying some organic pest-control techniques, hoping that garlic will deter insects that like broccoli, and that radish flowers will shoo away cucumber beetles.
Yesterday I baited our Hav-a-Heart trap, hoping to catch the woodchuck that neighbors say they’ve seen. I’ve already trapped and released two opossums, which don’t attack the garden. Rabbits, unlike woodchucks, can’t climb our garden fence, but they can raid other unprotected beds. This year we have seven beds outside the fence. Some of these crops, such as tomatoes and perennials such as asparagus and rhubarb, don’t interest the bunnies, but we’ll have to protect the winter squash and greens. I’m looking for the best place for Farmer MacGregor, our colorful new scarecrow, and a second critter-monster that I plan to make out of pantyhose stuffed with human hair.
We could easily pick up vegetables by joining a Community Supported Agriculture program, or buying these vegetables at a farmer’s market or the All Things Local market. But backyard gardening is a hobby that we enjoy doing together, and it’s fun to stroll out to the garden and see how things are doing. And there’s nothing fresher and healthier than vegetables picked only an hour ago.