The Spring Rush Continues

by Doug Muller

Ken raking beds in the back field. Ken raking beds in the back field.

We've slacked on the blogging a bit lately--sorry about that. We've been in full-fledged spring rush mode, which this year means breaking lots of new ground, removing as much grass as we possibly can (an endless task, sure to last a few years at least), shaping beds, mixing in compost and organic soil amendments, and then--finally--transplanting seedlings or sowing seed. We've also had a major tiller breakdown, prematurely bolting arugula, a spinach leafminer infestation, and a slew of orders thanks to a little blurb about our Art Packs that appeared in Martha Stewart Living magazine. So, we've had lots to keep us busy.  But we've been managing to have a pretty good time. Our first crops are maturing now, and we've got our camera in hand, catching shots of the varieties as they mature for use in next year's catalog.

It's nearly June, and people often begin to wonder now if it's "too late" to put in a garden. No way! Only a small number of crops absolutely must be started early; among them are tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, as well as a variety of minor crops (celeriac, onions from seed, et al.). All of these vegetables can be found readily at neighborhood plant nurseries until at least the end of June. Nearly everything else can be direct sown with success.

So, what's to sow when? Melons and winter squash must get in the ground by the second week of June or so in order to get a mature crop before frost, so if you're interested in these crops make them your priority. Next on my list would be full-season cabbage, the giant varieties of kohlrabi, and brussels sprouts--start these immediately to get mature plants for the fall. I'd also start carrots ASAP, just to ensure the longest period of availability; carrots started now will be harvestable from August through December. Cukes and beans can be sown until at least mid-July; try one sowing now and one or two more later to keep both vegetables in constant production. Then there are loads of green vegetables that can be started in succession from now until September; these include lettuces (sow heat-tolerant varieties from now through late July or so, then switch to the varieties that do better in the cool days and nights of late summer and fall) as well as leafy green brassicas, mescluns, and spinach (wait until at least August to start spinach). As the garden takes off in coming weeks and weeding, watering, harvesting, and preserving become nearly all-consuming tasks, do try to keep your eye on the fall crops. It's hard to convey just how valuable an extended season garden is: by early October, most of the garden work stops, yet for a good two months following there's plenty to harvest every day. (With cold frames or a hoop house this can be extended for the whole year.) It's quite a sweet reward.

Hope everyone's enjoying the rainy spell. Stay seedy! --Doug