[Note: this blog first appeared in May 2016 on the Garden Tower Project’s blog.]
Strawberries are flowering and ripening—goumis and raspberries and blueberries are all fruiting or about to. Lettuces and kales and other greens are growing well. Spring peas, radishes, and carrots are in place. Plants seeded last fall and perennials are emerging now.
As plants emerge that you do not want in your garden—extra raspberries, rampant garlic, dandelions, chickweed, etc…you can:
- compost them (in your Garden Tower)
- eat them, or
- share them with other gardeners.
At this edge point in the season, the USDA hardiness zones are still obvious—with late frosts and freezes threatening fruit blossom and tender greens the further north you go. Plants in warm microclimates such as close to the ground will get a jumpstart on the rest of the crowd.
Because the season is underway, an astute gardener will be picking up on what kind of season it looks like we are having—dry, wetter than normal, temperatures above or below normal, etc…and planning to advance or delay planning. Not confident about when to do things? Ask an experienced gardener, extension agent, or master gardener in your area.
The growing season in zones 9-11 tends to run from February to late June and again from September to December—so your seasons might begin to wind down or prepare for hot, dry times. Planting in the shade or sunken beds can help your heat and drought tolerant plants make it through the season before fall planting picks up again!
Now is also the time to have your fall bulbs planted and mulch your raised beds. Mulching probably deserves its own blog for regular gardening. It introduces a few concerns, but the soil-building benefits and weed suppression far outweigh any concerns. Now is a great time to build new beds and plant them using a technique called sheet-mulching or lasagna gardening.
As soon as you are past your frost date, it is time to put out frost sensitive plants like cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, eggplant, and many of our favorite herbs and foods. If you live farther north, check how many days it is from germination to harvest (listed on your seed packets and in catalogs). Otherwise, get a jump start with seedlings already going.
Remember that small transplants do not have large root systems. They are very tender and sensitive, but might have an easier time transitioning to a new site than larger seedlings. When buying seedlings try to choose from a local nursery that has started the plants in your climate and taken the time to “harden them off” by setting them out overnight and throughout the day in your current conditions. Some nurseries ship in trucks full of flowers from out of state. These plants can have a really hard time adapting to your particular situation.
Speaking of flowers, make sure you include several varieties in your garden. Pansies and violas are edible flowers that are abundant in spring and fall shoulder seasons. Nasturtium flowers, with the spicy, peppery flowers, are frost sensitive summer garden flowers. Marigolds are classic flowers with their strong scent that confuses pests. Lupine, a nitrogen fixer, provides some elegance in the garden. Sunflowers are amazing in their diversity. Other gardeners prefer perennial flowers that attract butterflies and other pollinators: bee balm, daylilies, coneflower/Echinacea, and coreopsis name a few.
Established beds probably want some fertilizers. Foliar feeds first thing in the morning are pretty amazing. It’s proven that plants open the stomata on their leaves most in response to birdsong—so feeding plants at the crack of dawn makes sense. Fish emulsions and sea vegetables bring critical nutrients to your plants. Fertilizing now will help roots continue to establish and build overall plant health.
Remember, soil should stay moist, but also drain throughout most of the growing season. Transplants and young seedlings will need watering regularly to help them grow and keep the soil softer for their adjusting roots.
The world is greening up now—and gardening is in full swing, but take some time to enjoy the beauty of your garden and dream of bountiful harvests.