Seasonal Tips for Gardening Zones April-May 2003

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Planting and germination of seeds.
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Timely gardening tips for where you live.

Learn about current April and May seasonal tips for gardening zones in the U.S.

New England/Maritime Canada Gardening

Once main the snows have receded and the ground is warming.
Garlic and bunching onions lead the way with early,
shoots — check for any that may be caught under the
mulch. Fall-planted spinach, cilantro, kale, wild arugula
and mâche love the warmth and the spring rain.
Direct-seed additional greens and lettuce, and protect
oriental greens and brassicas from flea beetles with row
corers. Try a crop of fava beans. These big-seeded legumes
thrive in the cold spring soil and will be ready to harvest
and shell in July. For a real Mediterranean treat,
sauté favas with a bit of olive oil and spring onion
and garlic greens. Greenhouse shelves are brimming, but
make room for cucurbit starts (squash, melons and gourds).
In the orchard, remove mouse guards and check for damage.
Finish pruning and top-dress fruit trees, shrubs and
brambles with well-rotted manure or compost.

Mid-Atlantic Gardening

Time to transplant — get cut those trowels! We try to
have the best portion of our brassicas in the ground (under
row cover) by tax day, along with a brave few early
tomatoes. Remove old kale. Mustard and turnip plants before
harlequin bugs have a chance to reproduce, and plant
successions of radishes, peas, lettuce. spinach, beets,
carrots and Chinese greens. In late April, start summer
squash, cucumbers and long-season gourds in newspaper pots
(made by wrapping newspaper around a cup, sliding the cup
Out and Finding the newspaper with paper tape). Hill soil
around potatoes when they are ankle high. In May, plant
summer greens. “Rainbow” Swiss chard and “Dandy” red orach
produce colorful, long-lasting crops. Transplant
main-season tomatoes. peppers and eggplants four days after
the whippoorwill first sings and finish when oak leaves are
quarter sire. Peppers and tomatoes thrive in hay/straw
mulch — but not eggplants because the mulch encourages
flea beetles.

Southern Interior Gardening

Good things are beginning to happen in the garden. Take
advantage of these pretty April days to start working on
your garden spots to get ready for the summer bounty. Maybe
you are having visions of salad — those early tomatoes,
lettuces and radishes are ready for transplanting. After
the last frost has passed, the heat-loving vegetables you
started indoors (cucumbers, tomatoes peppers and squash)
can be moved to their new homes. Use this time to get your
plants established. A steady diet of water will help new
shrubs and trees get those roots going. Sow annual flowers
and vegetables — they will take off as the air begins
to Warm Up. Don’t forget to assess the success of your
spring bulb planting. Make notes now, while it’s still
fresh in your mind, and keep those notes where you can find
them at bulb-ordering time.

Gulf Coast Gardening

Some crops, such as Southern peas and okra, demand warm
temperatures before they will really take off. Now’s the
time to begin planting these. Its not too late to plant
more bush beans, summer squash, melons, peppers, eggplants.
marigolds, zinnias, gomphrena, rudbeckia, coleus and
caladiums. If you’ve waited this long to plant tomatoes,
consider choosing heat-tolerant cherry tomatoes or
rapid-maturing varieties like “Early Girl.” Check crops
such as green beans and tomatoes for spider mites. They are
especially severe in years when we have a dry spring. If
you catch mites early, keep them in check with a
high-pressure water spray or a low-toxicity spray like
wettable sulfur.

This is a critical time to spray fruit and nut trees. Many
Cooperative Extension offices have organic or low-toxicity
spray guides available. Pests like plum curculio and brown
rot are relentless when it comes to stone fruits like plums
and peaches.

Central/Midwest Gardening

This is a time of year when temperatures fluctuate widely.
Still freezing? Tackle winter cleanup chores and repair
garden tools. If we are having a cool spring, plant early
crops like broad (fava) beans, peas, lettuce, onions and
greens now. Planting early flowers will bring bees to your
garden to pollinate the first vegetables — try direct
seeding poppies, nigella, larkspur, cosmos and gypsophila.
This is also a good time of year to divide perennial
flowers to benefit their health. There is still plenty of
time to start transplants indoors — they will catch up
quickly as the days lengthen. Generally, there is a frost
near the Victoria Day weekend (late May), so don’t get
carried away and plant tender things yet! To avoid carrot
rust-fly problems, wait until June to seed carrots. We do
this every year with success.

North Central and Rockies Gardening

Survey your dominion and assess your solar assets. See
where the snow melted first, where green emerged, where
cold spots remain. Garden soil that slopes in a southern
direction generally warms faster. Plant your early-season
crops — arugula, kale, lettuce, pac choi, pea, radish
and spinach — in these areas warmed by the sun and you
will maximize your harvest in the shortest possible time.

As you plant, remember each seed is a living embryo. Treat
it with respect. Most small, hard, round seeds will last
for years if kept cool, dark and dry. Germination
percentage for a packet of seeds may fall over the years.
but think twice about throwing away your old stock and
automatically ordering new seeds each year. You simply need
to plant extra old seeds to compensate for lower
germination rates.

Pacific Northwest Gardening

Longer days and rising temperatures bring Northwest
gardeners out of hibernation. In early April, jump-start
the season by covering your beds with plastic. This will
allow the soil to dry out and warm up quickly. Once the
soil is dry enough to till, remove the plastic and work the
beds. The brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale,
etc.) along with salad greens, beets and carrots all can be
planted outside a few weeks prior to the last frost. Wait
until after this date for frost-sensitive plants. Take time
this spring to make gardening a family activity. Plant a
patch of wheat in the front yard to set off a six-month
neighborhood bread-making project, or grow tall sunflowers
to focus on the awesome ability of one seed. There’s
everything to do in April and May, but if we want our
children to garden, sometimes we need to remember how to
play in the dirt ourselves.

Southwest Gardening

When nights are consistently above 50 degrees, it’s time to
plant out seedlings of eggplants, peppers and tomatoes.
Direct-seed crops like beans, chard, collards, corn,
cucumbers, kale, leeks, melons, muskmelons, mustard, okra,
onions, parsley, pumpkins, squash, watermelon, sweet basil
and other herbs.

Before you plant, consider how you will water. Some drip
irrigation systems like T-tape are easier to lay out before
you transplant, but the effort pays off because the water
goes to the plant, not the weed. (See “Irrigation Made
Easy,” August/ September 2002.) A mulch of wheat straw also
cuts down on weeding and helps conserve water as we recover
from a multiyear drought.

Check catalogs for specialty vegetables traditional to
Asian, Central American and South American Cuisines. These
include varieties that thrive in our summer heat and can be
direct-seeded now, including amaranth, Asian and Portuguese
cabbages, huauzontli (a red-leaved Aztec spinach), jicama
and edamame.

Our thanks to the following for their contributions to the
Almanac: Roberta Bailey, FEDCO Seeds,
Waterville, Maine; Cricket Rakita, Southern
Exposure Seed Exchange
, Mineral, Virginia;
Connie DamByl, William Dam Seeds, Dundas,
Ontario; Matt Barthel, Seed Savers
, Decorah, Iowa; Bill McDorman,
Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens
, Hailey, Idaho;
Josh Kirschenbaum, Territorial Seed
, Cottage Grove, Oregon; Rose
Marie Nichols McGee, Nichols Garden Nursery
Albany, Oregon; Craig and Sue Dremann, Redwood City
Seed Co.
, Redwood City, California; Dean
Lollis, Park Seed Co.
, Greenwood, South Carolina;
William D. Adams, Burton, Texas.