The nurseries are full of summer crops, and it has been warm and maybe this year you can plant your summer crops this early but one thing Wendy and I really agree on is that we suggest you wait until May to plant summer crops. There are often cold snaps in the end of April, and soil temperatures have not warmed up. All summer crops like warmer soil or they just sit in the ground not doing much. If you really want to get a jump on things plan on giving those summer crops- tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans some protection- either a cold frame or some kind of wrap around them- like wall of waters. Corn and beans are usually started from seed in a garden and won’t germinate unless soil temperatures are warmer.
What can you plant? Carrots (seed), beets (seed), onions (transplant), lettuce (seed or transplant), potatoes, broccoli (transplant), cabbage (transplant), if you are in a cooler spot (west county) you can plant one more round of peas (seed or transplant), arugula and other salad greens. Birds are aggressive in the garden this time of year so protect your pea and lettuce starts.
This is the time of year when you can really appreciate perennial vegetables (as Wendy shared in the last blog). Because they do not go to seed and die as annuals and biennials do, they produce well this time of year as other plants are ending their lives after overwintering. Perennial plants are taking all the stored energy in their roots and pumping out growth right now. Perennial kale, sorrel, asparagus, artichokes, chives are all in their prime of production and really can feed you until your spring garden kicks in more.
A lot of people have been asking me about their kale and chard plants. Kale this time of year starts to bolt (go to seed). First it elongates and then it goes into flower, usually it gets covered in aphids also. You can keep eating the leaves and flower buds until it gets bitter or too covered in aphids, then you should pull it. Hopefully you planted some new kale back in March and it will be producing for you shortly. Chard usually bolts a little later then kale and it often gets extremely productive just before you lose it. Even if you planted the kale and chard in the fall, you will lose it. After it goes through a winter vernalization period (of shorter days and colder temperatures), the plant’s biochemistry tells it to go to seed.
If you like greens as much as I do, you can stay in greens year round by having different varieties of kale and chard that go to seed at different times in the spring and having some perennial kale in the garden to keep you year round in greens. I use baby kale plantings and perennial kale to get through the lean time when all kales and chard go to seed in April.
Remember gardens are supposed to sooth the soul and bring joy, so find ways to make the spring push to get in the garden fit for you. Get friends involved or start a garden wheel where a group of gardeners rotate from person to person’s house to help each other. Set aside enough time so you can enjoy the work, as often it is feeling rushed that prevents us from enjoying the garden. Find something you want to do for the 350 Home and Garden Challenge this year- May 18-19. Grow food, Save energy, Conserve water, Build community and register your action at http://www.dailyacts.org/.