The Garden Patch: Believe it or not, spring is on the way

052514-garden-excericiseSpring will spring before we know it and we gotta be ready to garden! Can’t you just taste all those fresh veggies that will be on your plate? Winter is progressing, so we’d better be ready! Here goes …

  • Prepare your garden soil once it has dried out and crumbles easily in your hand. Turn under winter-killed cover crops in early spring. Incorporate green cover crops such as winter rye into the soil at least 2 weeks before your transplant date. Add compost.
  • Top dress garden beds with compost.
  • Use mulch to deter weeds; reapply as needed.
  • Keep all newly planted crops well watered if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate by providing sufficient rain.
  • Presprout peas and potatoes in advance of setting them out in the garden to give them a head start.
  • Plant cool-season veggies and flowers such as peas, spinach, foxgloves and hollyhocks as soon as the ground can be worked.
  • Start seeds of cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale indoors under grow lights in March (if you didn’t start them in February).
  • Plant cool-season vegetables such as mustard greens, lettuce, peas, radishes and spinach in cold- or warm-frames (cold frames with heat cables or other heat source) in late March or early April.
  • Start seeds of warm-season vegetables such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes indoors the first week in April to transplant into the garden in late May.
  • Direct-seed beets, carrots, Swiss chard, collards, lettuce, parsnips, peas and spinach and place onion sets into the garden in April. Set out hardy seedlings such as cabbage, leafy greens, onions, pansies and snapdragons, allowing them to harden-off for a day or two in a protected area.
  • Plant out warm-season vegetable plants – cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, squash and tomatoes – around the safe planting-out date.
  • Go ahead and pick those long awaited first asparagus spears in April and May.
  • Set out warm season bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and gladiolus in May.

Feed your compost pile

Here’s some info that my compost pile gave me about green goodies …

  • Aquarium water, algae, and plants (from freshwater fish tanks only) add moisture and a kick of nitrogen.
  • Chicken manure has high amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Dead houseplants add a dose of nitrogen – BUT don’t include thorny or diseased plants.
  • Fresh grass clippings should be mixed with plenty of drier, brown material or you’ll risk creating a smelly pile.
  • Green garden debris such as spent pansies, bolted lettuce and deadheaded flowers can all be recycled in the compost bin.
  • Horse manure contains more nitrogen than cow manure.
  • Manure from pet rabbits and rodents (e.g. gerbils and hamsters) can be composted with the accompanying wood or paper bedding.
  • Vegetative kitchen scraps (carrot peelings and the like) should be buried in the pile so they don’t attract animals. Eggshells are OK, too!
  • Weeds can be composted! No kiddin’! Just remember to never to add weeds that have set seed or weeds that root easily from stems or rhizomes such as field bindweed and Canada thistle.

And how about some brown goodies for the pile…

  • Brown garden debris such as corn and sunflower stalks, dried legume plants and dried potato and tomato vines add bulk to the pile.
  • Hedge prunings and twigs help keep a pile fluffy but should be chipped first so they decompose faster.
  • Leaves are an abundant carbon source and full of nutrients. Stockpile them in fall so that you have them on hand in summer.
  • Pine needles decompose slowly. Add only small amounts to your pile. Use excess needles as a mulch.
  • Straw bulks up in a pile, but it should not be confused with hay which often contains weed and grass seeds and shouldn’t be added to compost.

That’s a short list for this week, folks. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did researching and writing it. I know that I mention “researching” quite frequently, but I do it to make certain that what I’m telling you is approved by K-State or other agri-teaching organizations. After all, they gain more experience in a year than I will in a lifetime! Hope you that the old gardening bug is gnawing away at your very being! Let’s plant something! Till next time!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.

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