By Phyllis Galowitz
A friend asked, “What shall I put on my vegetable and perennial beds now?” I took out my collection of garden books to be sure I was giving him the correct information.
Ideally, soil cultivation should have been done in the fall when the ground was warm and dry and when there would be a chance in the winter months for the materials to break down into humus. By spring, the additions would have blended in, making the soil richer and ready for planting. But what happens when frost suddenly comes and you never had the chance to do that preparation? What happens when the lame doe that had been living in the backyard for weeks, feeding on her favorite foliage, is gone, leaving behind a devastated garden?
I have a small garden, and like to follow the ideas in Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew, a book that is in the Andes Library. Instead of tilling a large area all at once, I work in small squares, 4’x4′, at a time. That seems manageable and doesn’t require more than a spade or a fork. To determine if the soil is ready for digging in the spring, squeeze a ball of soil in the palm of your hand and poke the ball with a finger from your other hand. If the ball falls apart into small pieces, the soil is ready. If your finger just makes a hole or an indentation in the ball, the soil is still too wet. Wait another week.
When the soil can be worked, sprinkle the square with a trowel full of organic fertilizer, compost, and aged manure, and turn it over in that square. You can also add peat moss, vermiculite, or whatever you have on hand.
It’s time to plant spinach, lettuce, onion sets, and peas from seed, and in the middle of May, beets, carrots, radishes, and Swiss chard. You’re well on your way to an exciting growing season, one square block at a time.
To deter slugs, remember to fill tuna cans with beer and bury them to the rim in the soil. Those nasty slugs will drown in the beer.
Attract birds to your garden by sprinkling birdseed (but not sunflower seeds) next to plants, and providing them with some clean water to bathe in. They’ll eat the seeds and the insects that are chewing on your plants.
To keep pests away, plant marigolds in the vegetable garden. They’re pretty and pests don’t like their smell!
If you’re moving houseplants outside, keep them from the direct sun and cold nights at first and slowly get them accustomed to the change in light and temperature.
Add organic fertilizer between plants in the perennial beds.
The lazy days of winter are over. Spring is a busy time in the garden. I have to remind myself not to take on more than I can handle and to cover myself from head to toe to keep the insects from devouring me. Why do I love gardening? ~