December, Is For The Birds!

It’s very nice to sit by a cozy fire with a cup of coffee and watch the birds on a snowy winter day. Brilliant blue jays, cardinals, and gold finches are a delight as they flit from perch to perch. They perform a carefully choreographed ballet each taking its turn at the feeder. The jays lord it over the smaller birds, the quick chickadees dart in and out, and nuthatches hang upside-down. But the birds give you more than winter pleasure at your window–they may stay on to sing in spring’s dawn chorus and for summer’s insect patrol in the garden.

In autumn many birds gorge to build up a fat layer to help protect them in the freezing winter temperatures. They are busy hiding seeds in tree bark and crevices. Chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches will feed from these secret caches when their food supply is scarce. In winter, birds may loose 10% of their weight each night shivering to maintain an average body temperature of 105º. Little birds are at greater risk because of their smaller core volume size relative to their surface area than larger birds. Winter fruits and berries provide necessary fats and antioxidants. The late afternoon and early morning rush hour at the feeder makes a big difference to the survival rate of birds during severe cold spells. Providing birdseed and suet gives them the extra calories needed for maintaining body heat and for overall health. Studies indicate that birds given supplemental feeding also produce larger clutches.

There are squirrel-proof feeders available now that really do work. Look for ones with a mechanism that slides down with the squirrel’s weight closing the feeding holes. Add a dome to keep the feeder dry and snow-free. Toss millet seeds on the ground for mourning doves, juncos, towhees and sparrows. To increase the variety of visiting birds at the feeding station add a thistle feeder for finches (also available with the squirrel-proof design) and suet cages for woodpeckers. For easy clean-up put down a layer of burlap under the feeders to catch sunflower seed hulls. In the spring, fold the burlap around the hulls and put both on the compost pile.

Hang feeders near branches to make the feeding area more attractive to birds. Many prefer to snatch a seed and take it to a nearby perch and crack it open. The birds are more comfortable with some overhead protection from hawks. Small trees, shrubs and evergreens can be worked into your garden design near bird viewing areas.

Window bird watching is entertaining for cats, too–but keep them inside. Cats are a serious threat to wild birds. Domestic and ferrel cats kill millions of wild birds each year. Help prevent this by keeping cats in, especially in the morning and just before sunset. Ferrel cats can be trapped humanely and brought to animal shelters, where they can be spayed or neutered.

Field test studies have shown that the most favored foods by birds are by far sunflower seeds and cracked corn, closely followed by peanut hearts, Niger (or Nyjer) thistle, and millet. Beware wasteful mixes that contain filler ingredients that are tossed aside and not eaten by birds. The best mix is homemade with the ingredients listed above.

For snowy spots that are hard to get to, but make good viewing from windows, leave plantings untrimmed with the seed-heads sought by birds intact to create an easy low maintenance bird feeding garden. Add trees and shrubs with winter interest like Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’, ilex verticillata (holly), malus species (crabapples), viburnum dentatum, Morella [Myrica] pensylvanica (Northern bayberry) and Corylus avellana ‘Contorta' (Harry Lauder’s walking stick). As an added bonus, many of the native berry bearing shrubs attractive to birds provide nectar for the bees as well.

 

December Birdseed Checklist

November, It’s Elemental

Earth, wind, fire, and water: without any one element, no life and no garden. While each plays its part in supporting life on earth, soil is most closely associated with gardening. The living soil, so easily taken for granted, is a seething eight inches* of bacteria, fungus, mold and other microorganisms; a voracious energy microcosm that turns death into life, creates nutritious vegetables and fruit from manure, and supports all life on earth. And yet it’s a fragile system easily knocked out of whack.

The rate of soil loss world wide is considered one of the most critical concerns today. Erosion is second only to population growth as the biggest environmental problem the world faces. We can be good stewards of the earth by protecting the soil in our own backyards and literally reap the benefits at the same time.

Soil is not just useful for plant growth. There is bacteria living there that when disturbed is inhaled and imparts a chemistry that lifts the spirits of the folks that dig into it. A strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of serotonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Maybe this is the reason why gardening is addictive and why gardening therapy is so successful. Probiotics and prebiotics, the microscopic critters essential for the good health of all living creatures, come from the earth. Dirty hands and not so carefully washed and peeled root vegetables can transfer health benefits.

Good soil is made up of decomposed rock that provides mineral content, decomposed plants and animals add the organic component, living microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and mold. Compost in the soil feeds the microorganisms, and the microorganisms feed the plants that feed us. Adding organic matter (compost) to clay soils creates spaces where oxygen exchange can take place. Compost improves the tilth or texture of the soil allowing air and water to get to plant roots.

We can prevent the soil from becoming compacted by not working in the garden when the soil is wet. Raised beds with designated paths help protect the soil structure from collapse. Watering deeply not only encourages deep root penetration, it is necessary for bacteria and fungi. A layer of mulch on the surface helps keep the soil moist and cool, and protects the microorganisms.

Autumn is a great time to start a compost pile. Start with a layer of sticks and twigs to allow air in. Add layers of fallen leaves, stalks from the perennial garden cleanup, and the frost killed plants from the vegetable garden. Add kitchen scraps like coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable and fruit peels, and more dried leaves. Your goal is to give the microorganisms in the soil lots of things to eat: feed the soil, and the soil will feed you.

*Average depth of topsoil.


November Chore Checklist

 

October, “How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” – John Burroughs

Shorter days, colder nights and here is autumn. By day, glorious warm colors blanket the trees and fields. Russets, burgundies and gold mixed with spots of bright scarlet thrill us, but the night comes on fast and wood smoke is comforting.

Witches, alchemists and gardeners have a lot in common: “Eye of newt, and toe of frog/Wool of bat, and tongue of dog/Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting/Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing…”
In this spell cast by the witches in Macbeth, some of gardeners’ favorite companions are conjured–the creepy crawlers; worms, spiders, centipedes and toads, and the night fliers; owls, bats and whip-poor-wills. These are the things that knit together the light and the dark and bring balance. The definition of magic is transformation, so what better time of year to celebrate it? At the end of the growing season the verdure of summer transforms into blazing fall foliage, and harvest time is here.

October is also the month of gathering crops. In the garden is winter squash, pumpkins, beans, beets, carrots, turnips and potatoes. Old cucumbers left on the vine are hard and orange now, ready to be harvested for next year’s seeds. Flower seeds can be sprinkled around from poppies, larkspur, cleome, columbine, nicotiana and digitalis. Seeds from morning glories, nasturtiums, and sunflowers may be saved in paper envelopes marked with their name and collection date. Once thoroughly dry, store seeds in a plastic or glass container with a tight fitting lid somewhere cool and not overly dry.

A thorough fall clean-up will greatly reduce the amount of overwintering pests and diseases. Pick up fallen fruit from under apple trees and feed it to the chickens. Remove stalks and leaves from the cabbage patch, broccoli and squash to prevent re-infestation. Put tomato and potato remains and carefully raked rose leaves on the burn pile to kill fungus spores. Prune infested viburnums to remove the egg cases of the viburnum leaf beetle (their burrows can be found on the underside of twigs in grooves and they can be burned, too).

Plant garlic cloves two-inches deep, every six-inches, in rows twelve inches apart. Cover liberally with shredded straw. Spinach, mustard greens and mache (corn salad) may be planted in October under floating row cover for April harvest. Start planting spring bulbs like daffodils, muscari, crocus, scilla, and fritillaria.

Celtic legend tells us of Stingy Jack, who agreed to have a drink with the devil in exchange for his soul. When the devil shape-shifted into a coin to pay for the drink, Jack trapped him in his pocket by placing it next to a silver cross. When Jack died, God wouldn’t have him in heaven and the devil wouldn’t have him in hell, so he roamed the eternal night with a carved rutabaga lantern to light the way. He became known as “Jack of the Lantern”. Pumpkin jack o’lanterns are an American innovation on the harder to carve rutabagas, but you can carve your own traditional rutabaga lantern using a curved wood gouge. Add a grotesque face representing a spirit of the dead to help frighten Stingy Jack away from your house.

 

October Chore Checklist

 

September, Botanical Enlightenment

The autumnal equinox, on September 23rd this year, marks the beginning of fall. The sun sinks lower in the sky reminding us of shorter days to come. This is the light artists love. With some thoughtful planning gardeners can use light like this to great advantage.

One of the first considerations in making a garden is how many hours of sunlight does it receive throughout the day? Is it a sunny spot with eight or more hours of direct sun, as required by many vegetables–or is it a shady spot, which hostas and ferns prefer? You may have to map the course of shadows, hour by hour, as they move across your property. Plants have light requirements or tolerances and these can be found on plant labels or online.

When assessing your garden light, avoid the middle of the day when the contrast is too strong and color is blasted by the overhead sun. The movement of light is best observed in early morning and late afternoon, when the sun is low and long shadows are cast. Color is at its richest then and even more so after a drenching rain. It is possible to control the quality and direction of light by planting trees or vines in places where their cast shadows are wanted. Dappled light is inviting, and a bright spot along a path can beckon your visitors onward.

More interesting than this is the play of light upon plants. You can add an additional layer of interest to your garden at specific times of day by utilizing sunbeams. Plants between you and the sun become luminous beacons of transmitted light with bight flashes of color. Morning light on dew-covered asparagus turns it into a curtain of sparkling diamonds. As the sun dips in late afternoon, light passing through colored leaves and petals creates windows of stained glass.

Some plants have hairy leaves that capture droplets of water that refract light into prisms. The perennial, Alchemilla mollis, is named for the alchemists who sought to turn base metals into gold. Drops of water rolling on it’s fuzzy leaves are reminiscent of liquid mercury. Other plants have pale petals and leaves that are highly reflective. They can light up the garden in moonlight, and many of these exude their strongest scent after sundown, making them ideal for folks away at work during the day, who may enjoy an evening stroll before turning in for the night.

September is the time to deadhead or mow weeds before they set seeds. You may not stop them all, but you can slow them down a bit. Weeds to watch for include ragweed (not to be confused with goldenrod, a nice plant), purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, dock, bindweed and oriental bittersweet–cut them at their roots.

The honey bees are getting ready for winter and egg laying is greatly reduced as the hive contracts. Nectar flow is slowing and the drones are disappearing. Be sure there is water available to them. See that they have enough honey stored to feed them through the winter, at least 60 pounds per hive, or supplemental feeding may be necessary. The bees are still collecting pollen from asters, goldenrod, and helianthus.

 

September Chore Checklist

 

athyriumniponicum

August, "All Gardening Is Landscape Painting”

"The two arts of painting and garden design are closely related," wrote landscape architect Beatrix Farrand in 1907, eching the words of Alexander Pope, quoted in the title above, "except that the landscape gardener paints with actual color, line, and perspective to make a composition . . . while the painter has but a flat surface on which to create his illusion.” It’s not surprising that many well-known garden designers were also artists, and vice versa. Color, texture, balance, depth, pattern and rhythm are the tools of gardeners, artists, writers, and musicians. Samuel Morse, Gertrude Jekyll, Frederic Church, Claude Monet, Frida Kahlo, Celia Thaxter and Beatrix Potter were all gardening artists, to name just a few.

Gardens can be more than a collection of plants, shrubs and trees. Many people let their creativity loose when in their gardens; they can be whimsical, stately, super-manicured or all natural. Some are as small as a shady bower with seating for just one. Shrubs and large perennials make great walls, and careful pruning makes windows. Trees and vines provide ceilings. Add some nice stones in strategic places, and you can define your secret spot.

One of the pleasures of transforming a two-dimensional image or idea into an interactive space is the magic that happens soon after its creation–the arrival of visitors. Both humans and animals turn a botanical stage set into a living environment. By selecting particular plants you can attract the birds, insects, and animals you would like to see and hear most.

Gardens can provide refuge and privacy, places to meditate or commune with nature, retreats filled with sensory pleasures and places to entertain. Good garden design can help you attain the feelings you want to experience. When visiting friends’ gardens you may feel your mood shift. Maybe a walk in the woods calms you down or soothes you. You may prefer the bright openness of a meadow or the gentle sound of water among mossy rocks. If you are interested in having a special place of your own, but not sure how to begin, why not take the time to notice how you feel in different places? What is it about a place that makes you feel a certain way? Visiting public and private gardens may provide inspiration for making your own personal sanctuary. Keeping a garden journal and taking photos of your garden throughout the seasons can help you to develop it further.

 

August Chore Checklist

July, The Bugs Have Arrived!

Gardens are looking lush and beautiful and attracting plenty of admiring glances from garden tour groups and now, pests. Cabbage white butterflies, tomato hornworms, red lily leaf beetles, Japanese beetles, slugs and snails to name a few. Hand picking, applying nontoxic pesticides, and setting baits are all useful strategies, but we have natural allies, too. Beneficial insects, birds, and other small animals are great ways to keep up the defenses while you are busy doing other things, like sleeping. Providing habitat for helpful critters and growing host plants to feed them will encourage their presence.

Cabbage white butterflies are pollinators, and lay their eggs on plants in the brassica family. The larvae can turn your kale and cabbage leaves into lace. Inspect the underside of leaves frequently for the cocoons and little green caterpillars and squish them. Predators include birds, ants and mantids. Spraying with BT is very effective, but it only works during the caterpillar stage.

Tomato hornworms make delectable treats for chickens. The happy recipient will run around in circles squeaking with joy while the rest of the flock make chase. This is hilarious and cheap entertainment on the farm. If no chickens are available simply dispatch the culprit with your heel. If however, the hornworm is neatly studded with what appears to be upturned grains of fuzzy rice, allow it to die peacefully in your garden. Those “grains of rice” are the cocoons of the parasitoid braconid wasp, and if left to develop on the hornworm they will live to make more hornworm killing wasps.

Red lily leaf beetles are found on asparagus, ornamental lilies and Fritillaria species. They will scurry to hide on the opposite side of the stem when they see you coming. If you try to catch them, they will drop to the ground and flip upside down to show their dark undersides and become invisible. One solution is to hold a can of water with a little oil in it, under the beetle so it falls directly into the can. It may be helpful to drape a light colored cloth under the plant to see them before they burrow under the soil. People who are really ticked off by their wide scale defoliation won’t mind squishing them with bare hands. Neem will repel the beetles and must be applied every 5 - 7 days.

Japanese beetles traditionally arrive on July 4th and can be hand picked into cans of soapy or oily water. A trap planting of grapes on a wobbly arbor over the chicken yard will attract many beetles. A sharp shake dislodges the bugs to the eagerly awaiting chickens below who gobble them up like popcorn. If your lawn is spotted with signs of night digging, it may be your friend the striped skunk searching for JB grubs. Once your lawn is cleared the skunk will move on to your neighbor’s. Moles are another eater of JB grubs, and skunks also eat the moles and mice.

Slugs and snails are favored by toads, snakes and centipedes. Providing habitat for beneficial creatures in damp spots in your garden furnished with rotting logs and leaf litter will encourage them to stick around–pun intended. Toad houses may be made from upturned clay flower pots propped up with small stones, to provide relief from the sun. Toads are territorial, and can be tamed. In captivity they may live for up to thirty years. Toads are a gardener’s best friend: they eat cutworms, wireworms, caterpillars, flies, slugs and snails. A single toad can consume up to 10,000 bugs over a three month season.

June through July is when we have our greatest honey flow. The honey bees are busy collecting from white clover (their tongues can’t reach red clover nectar), alfalfa if left uncut, milkweed, vetch, sumac, mint, and American linden trees. July is the ideal time to sow buckwheat in our region. It helps to provide the bees with nectar during dearth times, such as before the golden rod and asters flower. At just six weeks from seed to flower, buckwheat provides nectar for the bees which makes great honey. It also makes a great “green manure” crop to sow in your fallow garden beds. Bees need plenty of water to drink and to cool the hive. Trays of pebbles kept covered with water will also help quench the thirsts of birds and butterflies.

Vegetables to plant in July for fall harvest include beets, turnips, spinach, Swiss chard, radishes, lettuce, mesclun greens and kale.

 

July Chore Checklist

June, An Abundance of Verdant Growth

"What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade."

–Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening 

If you have been keeping on top of your gardens and every bed is mulched and edged, perennials divided and vegetables growing, congratulations. You’ve done a great job, and you can sit in your favorite garden chair with a nice drink and enjoy your creation. But, if you still have bits and pieces to pull together, take heart--it’s not too late to continue dividing perennials and planting vegetables.

Keep planting succession lettuces, and finish direct sowing melons, squash and cucumbers. Frosts are behind us now and tomatoes, eggplants and peppers can all go into the ground. Make sure to water deep as needed. Plant roots will grow to reach water, so avoid surface watering to prevent roots from growing upward.

June brings forth an abundance of verdant growth including troublesome weeds and invasive plants. If a stitch in time saves nine, it also holds true that a weed pulled before setting seed saves hundreds, if not thousands of more weeds. The best strategy is to get them while they are small and easy to pull or hoe. Soil softens after a rain, increasing your chance of getting the roots out intact. A morning stroll through your garden is a good time to pull upstarts. Keep buckets handy to collect them.

In recent years we have seen a burgeoning of invasives in our gardens, woodlands, roadsides and lawns. Many seeds are spread by birds and animals, some stick in the tires of our cars and scatter along highways, others come from the garden center as innocent purchases and nasty hitchhikers. Once these thugs gain a foothold they can be extremely difficult to eradicate. The top five we mostly deal with are Japanese barberry, Japanese honeysuckle, Oriental bittersweet, garlic mustard, and rosa multiflora. All of these spread prolifically, displace our native plant species and should be dealt with immediately, especially before going to seed.

Japanese honeysuckle and barberry thickets form readily in the woods and along property lines. Barberry creates the perfect microclimate for incubation dens of deer ticks. Barberries have been shown to be an integral part of the cycle of Lyme disease. Even the ornamental ones in your garden contribute to the problem. Small plants are easy to pull by hand, and a garden fork will pry up larger ones. For bigger jobs, use a chain and tractor.

Oriental bittersweet, decorative and beautiful as it is in wreaths and garlands, strangles and kills trees. Its seeds have a near 100 percent germination rate. Sever the stems and carefully apply a systemic herbicide, following instructions on the label.

Lovely, tough and fragrant multiflora roses were introduced for soil erosion and livestock fencing in the United States in the 1930’s by the Soil Conservation Service. The hedgerows provided shelter and food for a wide array of wildlife. The seeds are dispersed by rose hip eating birds and mammals. Wild populations can harbor the rose rosette virus that spreads into our nice garden rose cultivars by a mite. A single stand of multiflora can produce millions of seeds each year, and they remain viable in the soil for many more years. Thorns have been known to puncture tires. The best remedy is goats. Consider keeping a few goats in your pasture for several seasons to gobble them up, or pull them out before they get to that degree of growth.

Garlic mustard is an easy-to-pull nuisance, and can be used as a nutritious addition in recipes. Grab it low down by the roots and if you don’t eat it or feed it to your chickens, dispose of it in plastic garbage bags and bring them to the dump. Its ability to continue to grow and set seed even in a bag is truly astonishing.

June is a very busy month for honey bees. Nectar and pollen start coming into the hive in quantity. The queen is laying at her greatest rate, and the hive is bursting with activity. Beekeepers should start monitoring weekly for signs of swarm preparations by keeping an eye out for extra drones and queen cells, and provide more space for growing hives. All this activity ensures a delectable crop of raspberries, blueberries and tree fruits to come.

 

June Chore Checklist

May, Hoo-ray!

Well, things are looking up! Warmer days and sunshine beckon us outside to poke about the garden, picking up litter and rearranging frost-heaved plants and stones. Spring peepers are welcoming warmer temperatures and the honeybees are flying. Time to get busy.

Cold-hardy transplants can go into the vegetable garden in early May: leeks, onions, and brassicas. If you haven’t already done so, sow seeds of lettuce, peas, spinach, parsnips, carrots, radishes and plant seed potatoes directly in the garden. About ten days later, sow beans and corn. Traditionally in our area, the last frost date is Memorial Day. After that, it is time to harden off and plant the tender transplants: tomatoes, basil, peppers and eggplants, and sow the cucurbits: squash, melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins.

While other animals were snoozing through the long winter, the vole population did not miss a beat. They were busy making more voles and expanding their territory. They plotted and planned their summer vacation in your garden. They love dining on parsley, beets, and potatoes, munching away at underground roots, out of sight of their predators. Let them know they are not welcome by placing mousetraps baited with bits of chicken, steak and medium stiff peanut butter, securely attached to the trap with thin florist’s wire. Place the traps next to the vole hole with an upturned flower pot over both the hole and the trap, and place a hefty flat rock on top. Check daily to remove your unwanted guests.

Be on the lookout for perennial weeds such as garlic mustard, burdock, bishop’s weed, and quack grass. Dig them out while the soil is soft and before they have a chance to set seed.
Plant new trees, shrubs, and perennials to take advantage of the spring’s longer days, warmer weather and saturating rains. Increase your collection by dividing perennials, and share or trade your extras with friends and neighbors. As you plant, take the opportunity to amend the soil with additions of leaf mould, and well-rotted manure (a little goes a long way). If you top the planting off with mulch, it will help keep in moisture and hold back weeds.

This is the season of the ephemeral wildflowers. As the ground thaws and before the trees leaf out, you can find Dutchman’s breeches, trilliums, trout lilies, mayapples, wild ginger, and bloodroot. These delicate woodland gems bloom for only a short time, and vanish among the summer’s foliage. Be careful not to step on newts as they make their way to the vernal pools.

Try to resist the urge to be too tidy in your woods. Decomposing timber and brush piles provide good habitat for many helpful species. Toads, birds, snakes, centipedes, spiders and beneficial insects are your allies. They will add interest and enliven your garden, and help defend your plants against other harmful bugs and critters.

Memorial Day is when the hummingbirds return. Attract them to your feeders with easy-to-make sugar syrup: mix four parts water to one part white granulated sugar. Boil the mixture to dissolve the sugar, and to kill bacteria and mold. You can store a large batch in the refrigerator. Clean and refill the feeders with fresh syrup every 2-3 days.

If possible, postpone mowing your lawn while the dandelions bloom. They are one of the most valuable early spring wildflowers providing nectar for pollinators. If a honeybee hive is able to survive the winter, this is the plant that will help keep them alive. Here in town, we have a small and devoted group of backyard beekeepers. If you see a honeybee, chances are it lives in one of our neighbor’s yards. Crops that benefit from their pollination are blueberries, apples, strawberries and raspberries.


May Chore Checklist

 

April, It's Time to Get Started

As the snow melts and the ground thaws, you may start thinking about the pleasures of having a kitchen garden outside your door. Thoughts of sun-ripened tomatoes and freshly picked basil may be hard to imagine after this past winter, but those days will come. Vegetable gardening success is a combination of cooperative weather, good soil conditions, keeping on top of bugs and weeds, and allowing Mother Nature to do what she does best. With that in mind, you can greatly increase your chances of having a beautiful and productive garden by planning ahead. If you have already learned this lesson, you probably spent some time over the winter making lists and mapping out your garden beds. And if you haven’t, there is still time.

Once the ground has had a chance to dry out a bit, it is time to get your beds prepared. The best place for a little garden is in a sunny spot, not too far from your door, in a place that drains well. Locate it near a water source, or close enough that the hose will reach. Remove the sod and improve the soil with well-rotted manure or compost throughly mixed in. Cultivate to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. If that’s not possible, consider building a raised bed on top of the ground, filled with a mix of topsoil and compost. Don’t worry if your soil is not ideal. Over time it will improve as you learn and become more experienced. The important thing is to get started. Thomas Jefferson said, “Tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.” Gardening is an art that grows with you.

Make a list of the vegetables you like best. In our gardening zone 4/5, April is a good month to start some seeds indoors. A sunny windowsill will work. Drill drainage holes in plastic containers from the recycling bin and fill them with a few inches of a good seed-starting soil mix. Some seeds germinate under the soil in darkness, while others need light to germinate. This information is usually printed on the seed packet or is easily found online. Gardening neighbors will gladly share tips with you, and they may even have some extra seeds saved from last year’s harvest to give you.

A short list of easy seeds to start in early April includes tomatoes, basil, melons, squash and cucumbers. After 4-6 weeks of careful tending, your seedlings will be ready to harden off, the gradual process of acclimating them to being outside. Put the seedlings in a shady spot during the day and bring them back in at night. After a week they should be ready for planting in the ground. However, make sure the temperatures are sufficiently warm and frost free for sensitive plants like tomatoes and squash.

Once the soil is dry enough to be worked without compacting it, you can sow some seeds directly in the ground. Cool weather vegetables for direct sowing are spinach, peas, beets, Swiss chard, various brassicas (such as kale, collards, and Chinese cabbage), onion sets, and spring-planted garlic. In mid-May you can add lettuce, beans, carrots and radishes. Pansies will tolerate cool nighttime temperatures and light frosts. Decorate your garden and yard with these cheerful flowers.

 

April Chore Checklist