By Jay Levine (Recycled from April 2014, Edition 5)
Photo: Courtesy of Jay Levine
It’s Spring and time to get your vegetable garden in shape for the season. Hopefully, you’ve already got some veggies growing, but if you don’t, there’s still plenty you can be doing.
At the moment, I have leeks, kale, broccoli, peas, cabbage, lettuce, arugula, spinach, onions, carrots and beets up and growing. These plants and some others, including mustard, dill and Swiss chard, are known as cold-season vegetables and grow best when temperatures are still cool. It’s especially important to plant peas and arugula early, as they are especially heat-sensitive. For most cold-season vegetables you generally need to start them using seeds because transplants (seedlings) are often not available at nurseries until later in April. A source for seeds well adapted for our area is the Hudson Valley Seed Company (www.hudsonvalleyseed.com).
Putting a row cover over the seeds can help keep your seeds moist. A row cover is a very lightweight fabric you lay over your planting bed. Row covers also protect tender plants from frosts and help keep pests away from your veggies. They are available at most nurseries and online.
If you haven’t planted anything yet, you should be preparing your garden for the season. For already established beds your first task should be removing any dead plants and weeds and adding compost, if you didn’t do so in the fall. Compost is a mixture of decaying organic matter, such as leaves and manure, used to improve soil structure and provide nutrients. A ½” layer of compost is the proper amount if you add compost every year and up to 1” if it’s been longer. If you need to buy compost, look for products like composted cow manure or ones using the word “humus.” Do not buy top soil. Top soil does not give your garden the long-term nutrition and moisture-retention benefits of compost. A good compost product should be black or dark brown and have a minimal smell.
If you don’t have a vegetable garden yet, now is the time to be setting it up. But before you start to build it, you need to develop a garden plan. Without a plan you’re much less likely to have a successful harvest. You need to consider factors such as location (for sun exposure, watering, ease of maintenance, etc.), type of garden (raised beds or in-ground), fencing (around here most gardens need fencing) and watering method (overhead, soaker hose, drip) among other factors.
Installing or maintaining a vegetable garden is one of the most rewarding ventures you can embark on. Your health and stomach will thank you. █