KP Gardens

Build Your Garden Now! Now, I Say! It Can’t Build Itself Even If It Wants To!


It’s April! The grass is growing. If the grass is growing you can grow lettuce! What a relief. Every winter seems so long.

Remember when it snowed on April Fool’s Day? But now is the time to pull away the mulch on your vegetable garden and plant some seeds and starts. Warning! Wait for May and warm overnight temperatures before you think of planting seeds for beans, corn or squash, or setting out tomato plants.

Don’t worry! You have a long list of delicious green vegetables and pretty flowers to choose from. The choosing is the biggest problem. Garden real estate is so valuable. Don’t be careless and experimental. Choose your tried-and-true varieties. Leave a bit of space to try “new, improved” strains, too, of course.

When you choose seeds, some F1 hybrid varieties can be too good to pass up. This is especially true of lettuce. If the seed packet doesn’t say F1 hybrid then you will know that the seeds are “open-pollinated.” When you save the seeds and plant them next year they will “come true.”

You don’t have a vegetable garden ready to wake up for spring? Then let me tell you how to make a new vegetable garden. Find a spot with lots of sunshine and good drainage. Don’t worry about proximity to water faucets. That’s what hoses are for. Making a new vegetable garden will take heavy lifting, hand digging, and patience. You will enjoy it! Your new garden doesn’t need to be large. A 5-foot square garden will be full of bounty. You can make a garden with paths and raised beds, too, or a combination, which is how we garden. If you choose raised beds don’t fill them with potting soil.

You have earth for the taking, full of everything a plant needs.

Digging grass out of a lawn is tough, but out of a field will be tougher. All the grass, weeds and roots must go. This will take time! If you have clay don’t even touch it until it has dried up pretty well. While you are waiting you can scalp the grass and weeds and cover them with leaves or an old sheet of plywood or an old rug, something to keep the light out and stop growth. No plastics, please. We don’t need plastic.

Your next step is to create tilth. With tilth, your plants will grow beautifully. Whether your soil is sandy or clay, all the organic matter added to it will fluff it up and make it sweet. Next fall you can use compost from your compost pile, leaves, seaweed and other bounties of the Earth when you put your new garden to rest for the winter.

But to begin this April you need soil conditioners. Bring home composted organic chicken manure in bags. (I like the brand with the little red hen on it, Stutzman Farms.) Two bags for every 25 square feet of garden. Organic is necessary. This eliminates herbicides and pesticides. You can’t grow big healthy plants when there are herbicides in your soil! While you are shopping buy a bottle of liquid fish fertilizer. You will fertilize all your vegetables all summer once a month with this.

Add the manure to your fresh dirt and you will have tilth. If you are strictly vegan, don’t try alfalfa on clay to replace chicken manure — it doesn’t work. You will need to wait a year. Do all I have described above. Then put your earth to rest this spring for next spring. Pile your bed up with leaves, compost, seaweed, sawdust (not grass clippings), and anything else that sounds delicious. Leave it until next spring. Gardeners are patient.

Seeds to plant in April:

● Arugula
● Radish
● Peas
● Carrot
● Lettuce: Salanova and Ariadne stand up to heat. Plant lettuce starts from the garden shop, too, especially Buttercrunch.

With flower plants among the vegetables, your garden will be even healthier, and more beautiful. Let them go to seed every year.

Plants to plant:

● Feverfew — everywhere, especially with artichokes to keep away ants.

● Nasturtium seeds, where the soil is light, that is, easy to work. If aphids come in August toss Nasturtium plants on the compost where they will keep blooming!

● Calendula anywhere — they self-seed beautifully.

● Borage — brings the bees to pollinate your vegetable flowers.

(Memo: there should be no neonicotinoids used on any plants you buy from the nursery. Neonicotinoids kill bees.)

● Sweet Alyssum seeds with lettuce.

● French marigolds — important for beans.

● Cosmos for bees and bouquets.