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Gardening for Life: A cool April means more time to plan your garden for the coming season

I suppose I have walked out by my asparagus patch at least twice a day lately. With a cooler April I know it is still too early to expect any thing, but hope does spring eternal and sooner or later it will warm up again and this patch of asparagus will be giving up its bounty. Fresh asparagus roasted with just a bit of oil and salt sure makes a tasty addition to any meal.

Actually, I am a little bit pleased April has turned colder. While I am as eager as anyone to forge ahead with all the outdoor chores that get accomplished in warmer weather, it is still pretty early in the spring. Since we have some time until the first average frost day we don’t want susceptible plants, bushes or trees to develop to the point they might be damaged by a killing frost. We experienced that in 2012, and most of the local fruit growers lost a large portion of their crop that year.

Some of the early garden seeds I planted came up during the warm March we experienced, so I do have some carrots, radishes and other plants showing. I think the crops I planted early will do alright, assuming milder temperatures are around the corner.

I also have planted about 140 onion plants. After replanting the ones the cats dug up, they all seem to be coming out of their dormancy and are slowly starting to grow. I planted about 70 onions of a variety called Copra and a similar bundle called Highlander. I will probably plant one more bunch in a few weeks. I may go for a red onion called Red Zeppelin. All of these onion types are good storage onions, which is one of the main criteria I go by when I choose which varieties to plant.

I did work up a small area of my regular garden the week of Good Friday and planted about six pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes. I love getting very early potatoes planted, so it might be possible to be eating new potatoes in June. Granted, June potatoes are going to be small, but gosh are they tasty. Planting potatoes early also takes advantage of the abundant spring rainfall.

I went ahead and purchased all my seed potatoes at the same time since they will keep well on the back porch until I am ready to plant the rest. I have more Yukon spuds to plant, as well as Kennebec and a red potato called Red Norland. I also picked up three pounds of a blue potato call Blue Adirondack. I still am not sure where I will plant my potatoes in the garden this year.

Spring is Near

The garden has now been started,
with the early stuff, you know.
But here comes more cold weather,
it will hardly be able to grow.
But temperatures soon will rise,
as the sun grows ever stronger.
With the warming of the garden soil,
the list of chores grows longer.
So I sit here and think of spring,
with so much yet to come.
Anticipating garden chores,
anticipating fun.
All things come in time,
I have found that this is so.
Soon will come the warmth of spring,
time for the garden to grow.

– Jim Carpenter

As I mentioned, I have planted several short rows of carrots to get a start on some early veggies for the table. I need to hold off a bit for the main planting of carrots so they don’t mature too early and need to be stored that much longer. I think I will be planting more carrots in the raised bed where I planted onions last year. Carrots do well when they follow onions. Also, onions are able to follow carrots in successive years.

Now to the back porch, where I started all those indoor seeds several weeks ago. I planted my tomato seeds earlier than I had planned. I was afraid they might grow too tall before the weather warms up enough to transplant them outside. But since the temperature has been as low as 40 degrees where they are they are growing slow, and at this point are 5 to 7 inches tall. I have 24 tomato plants. Hopefully I can get them in the ground early in May.

My peppers are still itty-bitty 2-inch plants, so they probably will be shorter than I was hoping by the time I put them in the ground. The eggplants, Brussels sprouts, and okra I started seem to be just about the right size for transplanting in a few weeks. I should be starting some cucumbers and summer squash indoors soon.

Even if the seeds I started indoor don’t perform well for me, it is still rewarding to have something on my back porch that tells me spring is near. It gives me a sense of satisfaction to think I am doing what I can now to help put food on the table later. I become more involved in the garden food chain. For me, it helps to give purpose and meaning to my life. Not in any huge way, but in a little way. And isn’t that a lot of what makes life worthwhile?


  • The Purdue Master Gardener Answer Line is now being staffed Monday to Friday through September. You may call 533-0554 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to get help with any of your lawn and garden problems. Call them for any questions you might have.
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