Most of us have been in the garden by now or at least trying to get outside as the weather cooperates. One of the latest spring snows we have had in recent years was the first week in April but I doubt that is going to happen now. All any precipitation does now is postpone our activity in the garden and landscape because it makes everything so soggy. We should have already sent in our soil samples to the lab, if this is the year that we are planning to get a read on where our nutrients and pH are in the garden. If we are going to try and have a bumper harvest of tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and maybe some broccoli, cauliflower and carrots we need to have the nutrients in the soil available to the plants in the right balance. The only real way to do that is to have a lab, which specializes in this type of analysis, give us the answers. Soil test kits are available at most independent garden centers so you can deal directly with the lab.
One thing we should remember is the condition of our garden soils. Adding compost to our clay soils is like adding “magic”. Ample amounts of organic matter or compost improves the performance and ease of managing the soil early in the spring and in the heat of the summer. Our soils normally are a clay type and about neutral on the pH scale which is quite high for many plants. Slightly acidic is preferred. When clay soils are handled by plowing, rototilling, cultivating when they are wet the result is severe clodding. These clods occur when the wet soil dries out leaving hard clumps that will likely take months to return to normal soil texture. Compost will help reduce this problem and aid the soil in returning to a condition that is ready to “work”. The message here is to avoid handling your garden soil when it is too wet and keep adding compost every year. Composted yard and kitchen waste are ideal or use some of the commercially available soil conditioners like sphagnum peat moss or pine fines.
The temptation, especially after an on/off again winter like we have had, is to get outside and get the garden going. You can do that by planting peas, potatoes, Cole crops, radishes, lettuce, spinach and carrots right now. When the soils are cold some plants like tomatoes and peppers don’t like this condition and they demonstrate their displeasure by not growing and sometimes they just give up and never recover.
The take home here is don’t rush the season, let the soil warm up before planting warm season varieties which not only includes tomatoes and peppers but beans, melons, cucumbers and corn.
Your gardening team,
Meadow View Growers
Growing here for over 33 years