We’re making good progress with catching up on our big transplanting tasks. We’ve planted the Roma paste tomatoes, peppers, melons, okra, eggplant, yet more lettuce and over half of the sweet potatoes. After this there’s “just” the watermelons and leeks to go. Then only the roughly weekly lettuce planting until the fall brassica transplanting shifts in late July and August. In order to give our transplants the best chance of thriving, we never plant in the mornings (except leeks), and prefer to make the extra effort to plant late in the day. That way, the plants have the cool of the night to get established before being called on to photosynthesize, transpire, extract water and nutrients from the soil, deter bugs and all the many plant tasks we don’t even know about. Currently we are transplanting 4-6 pm each day, with just a small group of people so that everyone focuses on planting and we are not training new people (a feature of our big morning work shifts).
Sweet potato vines grow to completely cover the area and the plastic is out of sight and being digested by the soil micro-organisms. Very little hand-weeding is needed. I think last year we did one walk-through (wade-through!) weeding.
The deer have reappeared and as sweet potato leaves are one of deer’s favorite foods, we got ourselves prepared, installing two Scare Crows, one at each end of the patch. These are water sprinklers activated by motion detectors. We’ve found Scare Crows quite effective against deer. They seem to have dropped off the market. Havahart is selling the Spray Away which looks similar but I haven’t tried. They can only be used during the frost free period, because you have to leave the water supply hooked up. As sweet potatoes will only be in the garden during the frost free period, this is a good match!
This is a fast growing, productive Asian lettuce. It has a sweet flavor and plenty of crunch. In our climate, I think it would not do well in summer. Better for spring and fall. We bought seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange You can read about it here, on this TaiwanFinn Blog. “Taiwan (and Luxembourg) Through the Eyes of a Finn”. one comment says this is known in the English-speaking world as Celtuce. But Kitazawa Seeds sells both. With celtuce, the stem is the main part eaten. With Sword Leaf it is the leaves. So I’m doubting they are the same.
Lettuce Factory: In flats, (on greenhouse bench) sow lettuce #7, 8, 9 (romaines & small varieties to interplant with peanuts). Transplant 1/3 bed lettuce (120 plants)/week. Plant #4, 5, 6 this month. Compost Needed for April: 6-9 tractor buckets for beds, 24-30 bkts to disk in.
In greenhouse, sow lettuce #7;
Keep celery above 55°F, and celeriac above 45°F (don’t put in coldframe). 10 consecutive days <55°F for celery, <45°F for celeriac, causes bolting.
Spot lettuce, harden off in coldframe. Spot peppers, tomatoes, & eggplant. Protect new pepper seedlings from mice. Keep tomatoes above 45°F at night, eggplant above 55°F.
Cut sweet potato slips at 6-12”, put in water. Once a week, plant rooted slips in 4” flats.
Sow outdoors: carrots #5, beets (see March notes), parsnips with radishes #2, (in celery bed), sunflowers.
Weed and thin early crops. Side dress or foliar spray over-wintered spinach to boost production.
Take rowcover from turnips, senposai, cabbage #1, kohlrabi, little alliums, onions as needed for broccoli.
Transplant lettuce #4, main cabbage & broccoli under rowcover (12 pieces) within 6 weeks of sowing.
Till beds for mid-April. Compost beds for late April plantings.
Garlicbulbing is initiated on/after April 10 (13 hours daylight), and soil temperature above 60°F.
In greenhouse sow melons #1 in soil blocks or plug flats, replacement paste tomatoes, lettuce #8, and okra.
Sow beans #1 when lilac in full bloom, sunflowers. Sow edamame #1, corn#1, if warm, and soil >60F.
Till beds for late April (chard, cowpeas, peanuts). Compost beds for early May (okra, toms, melons, celeriac, lettuce 7,8,9, asparagus beans)
Hill uppotatoes when 6” high. Cover half the vine. Repeat after 2 weeks. (Flameweed if too wet to hill.)
Take rowcover from kale, collards, early lettuce for raised bed tender crops.
Transplantbroccoli #2,insectary flowers #1, bulb fennel, lettuce #5, cukes #1 w/nasturtiums, zukes #1; use spring hoops for cucurbits. Take rowcover from spinach to strawberries.
Install stakes every 8-10’ for peas and fava beans, and stringweave them to final height of that variety.
Weedgarlic [or flameweed it early in the morning after a good rain. Direct flame at base of garlic plants]
Harvest lettuce as heads rather than leaves, from 15 April
#3 Spring Tractor Work (mid April)– Disk areas for sweet potatoes, winter squash, watermelons, (Romas and peppers if no-till cover crop insufficient). Bush-hog late food crop plots when rye heads up, to help clover or peas develop. Also clover patches, eg Green Fallow (All Year Cover Crops).
in greenhouse sow lettuce #9; watermelons #1 & 2 in soil blocks or plug flats; calendula and various insectary flowers, filler corn & Romas.
Sowcorn #1 (1/2-3/4” deep) in two phases, and peanutsif soil temperature is 65°F. Also cowpeas #1, and sesame.
Sow more leeks if needed in Little Alliums bed outdoors. If not, sow more mini-onions and scallions #3.
Transplantlettuce #6, leaf beet, chard, insectaries; finish transplanting gaps in the main broccoli &cabbage plot, plant Alyssum. Take rowcovers from broccoli & cabbage for new crops.
If mild, plant tomatoes. Harden off nightshades by restricting water.
Till beds for early May (okra, toms, melons, celeriac, lettuce 7/8/9, asparagus beans). Compost beds for mid-May (edamame, eggplant, limas).
Store spring and fall seeds (spinach, peas, beets) in the basement for the summer.
Foliar feed the potatoes, ideally the morning before hilling up, and every 2 weeks.
Roll out Driptape and Biotelos corn plastic mulch for peppers and Romas where no-till cover crop not used.
Cover crops: sow rye to wimp out. Sow buckwheat in any beds not needed for at least 5 weeks eg. leeks limas; add soy if bed not needed for 7 weeks.
Haybine or bush-hog vetch & rye for no-till planting of Roma paste tomatoes, late in the month (or very early in May). (Mow strips; or till strips through the cover crop for the rows, with narrow-set tiller). Water the area before digging holes, if dry.
Perennials: Weed blueberries, asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, grapes as needed. Mow aisles. If asparagus weeds are getting out of hand, mow down one or more rows to keep control. Monitor asparagus beetles, spray spinosad when bees not flying, if >10 adults/100 crowns. Spinosad: Shake well, 1-4 Tbsp/gall (1fl.oz=2Tbsp=30ml.) Repeat in 6 days.
Cover strawberries if frost threatens – take rowcovers from spinach. (Pick flowers off any new spring plantings.)
Visit grapes, log progress, remove flower buds from new vines. Note deaths and where replacement arms are needed. Check and repair fruit drip irrigation, thin raspberries to 6/foot of row.
Harvest and weed: Asparagus, chard (hoophouse), collards, garlic scallions- pull at 8″, kale, leeks, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, senposai, snap peas in hoophouse, spinach.
For ten years I have been keeping phenology records, as a guide to when to plant certain crops, and as a way of tracking how fast the season is progressing.
Phenology involvestracking when certain wild and cultivated flowers bloom, seedlings emerge, or various insects are first seen. These natural events can substitute for Growing Degree Day calculations. Certain natural phenomena are related to the accumulated warmth of the season (rather than, say, the day-length), and by paying attention to nature’s calendar you will be in sync with actual conditions, which can vary from year to year, and are changing over a longer time-scale..
Many people know to sow sweet corn when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear. By this point, regardless of date, the season has warmed enough to get oak leaves to that size, which happens to be warm enough for sweet corn seed to germinate and grow well. Some people transplant eggplant, melons and peppers when irises bloom; sow fall brassicas when catalpas and mockoranges bloom; and know to look for squash vine borers laying eggs for the two weeks after chicory flowers. Some transplant tomatoes when the lily of the valley is in full bloom, or the daylilies start to bloom.
Lilac is often used to indicate when conditions are suitable for various plantings:
When lilac leaves first form, plant potatoes
When lilac is in first leaf (expanded), plant carrots, beets, brassicas, spinach, lettuce
When lilac is in early bloom, watch out for crabgrass germinating
When lilac is in full bloom, plant beans, squash, corn. Grasshopper eggs hatch.
When lilac flowers fade, plant cucumbers.
Also, recording the dates of the same biological events each year can show longer term climate changes. In Europe, 500 years of recorded dates of grape harvests provide information about summer temperatures during that time. Project Budburst is a citizen science field campaign to log leafing and flowering of native species of trees and flowers across the US each year. Each participant observes one or more species of plant for the whole season.