Friday, April 16, 2010

Garden Calender

Garden Calendar

This information can be used as a guide; but you may need to adjust it for your local circumstances. The average last frost has been on April 6th, while the average first frost arrived October 2nd. Late July temperatures (max/min) are around 81F/54F. Temperatures for early January are typically 50F/35F.

I have found that the garden beds that have been covered by my chicken coop cleanings will be the most fertile. I add it to the soil in early spring and put the heaviest feeders, like brassicas, in first. After those are harvested, plant the medium heavy feeders. Plant the least heavy feeders like carrots and potatoes last of all; these get hairy roots or scab if the soil is too fertile.

Many people “put in” the garden one weekend in May. I generally plant a little every month. For example, I put 6 broccoli plants and 8 lettuce plants out from the “starts” grown in the garage once a month. I will do that until July. I plant more in July to overwinter or for storage.

In my dreams I grow everything we eat; in reality, I don't even come close! Reality is that turkeys keep digging up the corn seed. Before I figured out that the turkeys were pillaging my garden, I really could not understand the lousy rate of germination! Then I caught on to the fact that the turkeys were well fed and that is why the corn production was puny. Chickens get out and eat the strawberries and the Blueberries, I find eggs hidden under the tomatoes, by stepping on them, but we keep trying.


Lettuce, spinach, onions and mustard can all be started indoors. Remember that mustard is photoperiodic, so don't set the timer on your lights for too long of a "day length"! I also have a small glass house that I nearly always have some greens growing in. I also have 2 coffee trees, a small lemon tree and a yerba mate in it.


If you are growing asparagus from seed, start it now. The seeds can take up to three weeks to germinate even if kept warm. Prune your cherry and plum trees. The sour cherry tree tends to be spreading and can be pruned to a bowl shape. Sweet cherry trees are best pruned like apple trees. Plum trees vary in their growth habit, but are often pruned to the bowl shape.

Sow broccoli, cauliflower and onions indoors about mid-month. If you use 2" pots, and keep them growing on the cool side, they'll be ready to go out under a cloche about April 1. If you planted some inside last month they can go out at the same time and will be harvest sized sooner. Late in February is a good time to start artichokes. They can be overwintered with care, but Green Globe and Imperial Star are both easy to grow like annuals as well!

I plant peas on Valentine’s Day 2/14. However, in the Maritime Northwest it's important to pay attention to the winter weather. Some years my soil isn't dry enough for any planting until mid-April! Other years, peas can be planted as early as January. I have piled sand and potting soil over my pea area to plant the seeds into and improve drainage in the seed area. It helps to get them in the ground early. Since powdery mildew is the worst problem, plant resistant varieties. Peas planted earlier have less likely hood of getting powdery mildew.

Last year I planted my peas in a different location. I had dug up a strawberry patch that had very sweet but tiny strawberries; they were too small for my tastes. I planted my peas along that fence where the strawberry patch had been. They were shaded by the garage wall during the hottest part of the day and extended my harvest. So, if you have an area that is sunny in the morning with afternoon shade give it a try for snow peas.


By the first week of March, the threat of severe cold blasts is usually over. Cold-weather crops will grow, but rain is a constant and must be compensated for. I use my PVC cloches to prevent the rains from rotting away my produce. I don't bring the plastic all the way down to the dirt on the beds where cool weather crops are planted. This way, the air circulates to prevent rot and water gets into the raised beds. Cool weather crops would include the brassicas, greens, carrots, onions, beets and potatoes.

Late winter is the best time to prune peach, nectarine and apricot trees because fall and early winter pruning may expose trees to winter injury and canker infections. The delay permits the grower to adjust the severity of pruning to the percentage of fruit buds that survived the winter. Strive to develop a bowl-shaped or open-center tree.

Plant fruit trees as soon as the ground can be worked and as soon as possible after arrival from the nursery. (Protect roots from drying out or freezing.) In backyard plantings, the sod beneath trees should be turned under and cultivated to prevent competition for moisture and nutrients. I mulch heavily to avoid turning and weeding. Thoroughly water the trees. (Wait to fertilize until the after the tree starts to leaf out)

Use dormant spray on stone fruit (prior to fruit bud swell). Be sure to read labels carefully before applying plant pest control materials. I generally use dormant oil. It smothers the pests that my chickens miss. I use it very early in the morning to avoid killing my honey bees. They usually stay in the hive until it warms enough for them to come out. Apply fertilizers just before bloom to maximize plant uptake and minimize leaching. I use aged horse manure.

Fertilizer Rates

Fruit / lbs. of 5-10-10 (1 lb. = 2.5 cups)

Apples (1 - 4 years old)

1/2 lb. per tree per year of tree

Apples (over 4 years old)

Omit fertilizer unless by leaf or soil analysis (or terminal shoot growth is less than 15 inches)

Peaches, Cherries & Plums

3/4 lb. per tree per year of tree age

Mid March, transplant out, under a cloche, those salad greens you started in January. Lettuce, spinach, and mustard seeds can all be sown into a cloche, and can be counted on to germinate. Beets will come up, but may bolt later in summer if March ends up being cold. Early Wonder Tall Top is a good variety for these early sowings. I like to plant a handful of tall top beets every month when I plant salad greens both for the nutritious greens and the baby beets delicious easy to grow and store. Scallions can be sown now. Note that they will probably bulb in July, but you will get a harvest.

Brassicas can be a bit dicier. Kohlrabi will usually come up if sown in a cloche, but broccoli and cauliflower normally will have to wait until April for the soil to be warm enough for seeds to germinate. Carrots can be started this early, but the soil is often too wet to be worked as well as carrots require. Shorter types are better bets because they don't have the same requirement for deep loose soil. I plant onions and beets in the same bed together. Lime the carrot bed well. Start tomatoes and peppers. If I start them in 4" pots, they are ready to go outside in mid-May. I can put them out earlier using wall o waters or covering my fence cages with clear plastic with clothes pins to secure.

Plant your potatoes on St. Patty's day! Actually potatoes can be planted out without a cloche anytime from this point onward; but sowing them now (and then again in early June) will give you two harvests, if you use an early variety such as my favorite potato, Yukon Gold. If you don't plant corn and let your pole beans climb them (corn is more difficult to grow and takes a lot of space so gardening for food value corn should not be a priority) beans and potatoes grow well together. Cabbage and potatoes grow well together also but not beans and cabbage. Both Cabbage and potatoes can be stored for use during the months when growing food is difficult with little effort, pile in a box in a cool area that does not freeze. Replant peas if seeds have rotted and did not germinate.


Plant out cool season crops and others if using cloches and wall o waters for frost protection. Broadcast 1.5 lbs of 5-10-10 (or equivalent amount of organic fertilizer or another complete fertilizer) in a ring around each newly-planted tree. Keep fertilizer away from base of tree. I use aged horse manure.

Measures to control weeds should begin early in the season. Maintain a weed-free area 4 feet from the trunk of young trees. Plant grass outside this weed-free area but keep it closely mowed. Sow more salad veggies, such as lettuce, spinach, and radishes. They don't really need a cloche at this point, but will probably grow better in one if it's rainy (and when isn't it rainy around here in April?)

Start your eggplant inside right around April 1st. If you started broccoli or cauliflower indoors in February, move it to the garden. You can still start tomatoes and peppers, but you'd better hurry! If you haven't already done so, turn under the green manures in the beds where you'll want to grow your summer crops (corn, squash, cucumbers). Soils are still pretty cool, so even nitrogen-rich plants need several weeks to break down.

Try eating kale blossoms! They are really tasty if the buds haven't opened yet. Beets and chard can be sown directly in the ground now. They actually will germinate if sown in March, but if the weather is too cold they will bolt (this is because they are biennial, and can be fooled into thinking they have overwintered). Sow kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower directly in the ground. Remember that brassicas tend to be fairly heavy feeders, so plant them in well fertilized beds. If your garden has problems with the cabbage maggot, cover the bed with a cloche made with a floating row cover like Agro-fabric P10.

Peas can still be sown. However, since they will mature in hot weather, plant enation-resistant varieties (enation is spread by aphids which become more active once summer hits). Tomato plants can be set outside during the day on nice days. They will do much better if given the protection of a cold frame, unless it is unusually warm. Bring them in at night. Enjoy the abundant harvests of sprouting broccoli! Start basil inside around the 15th of the month. If you grow it in 4" pots, it'll be ready to go outside right about when the nights are warm enough. Now is a good time to plant bulb onions. Depending on the variety, these will be harvested in August or September. Remember that onions like warmth early in their lives, so using a cloche or row cover fabric will benefit them.

Hard-grown tomatoes can be planted outside under a cloche late in this period. Do NOT try this with store-purchased plants, or plants that have been grown in warm conditions (even if you've hardened them off). They do well by asparagus and can be planted among them once the asparagus is done producing for the year and just has spears growing. I have a stinging nettle in an open bottomed tub dug into the ground next to my asparagus bed and it is supposed to help tomatoes store better when grown by nettle because is a medicinal herb.


It's the first of a new month, and it's time to plant more salad stuff. Once a month is easy to remember, and it will keep you supplied with salad.

In early May I begin to keep a closer eye on the weather. The danger of frost is basically over, but soil temperature can vary quite a bit. If we are blessed with a sunny week in May, I like to gamble with early sowings of corn and beans. Don't plant your entire crop, and don't be too disappointed if they fail! If they germinate, though, they probably will make it.

In most years the soil will have dried out somewhat by now. If that's the case, put in your main carrot planting. Carrots do much better in raised beds, and love deeply-worked soil. But you don't really need to use a tiller; I've gotten good results just working the bed over with a spading fork.

Because soil temperature can vary so much this time of year, I usually plan on starting my curcurbits indoors. Sow squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons directly into large pots around the 15th of the month. Squash and pumpkins are very vigorous, so be prepared to move them to the garden within two weeks. All curcurbits are touchy about transplanting, so you might want to use peat pellets (I've had reasonable success with plastic pots, as long as I am very careful when I transplant them).

Even store-bought tomato plants can be put into the garden now. It is still a good idea to use a cloche. Plan on sowing your dry beans if a stretch of sunny days is forecast. They will need time to mature and dry down. Even with an early sowing, you may end up putting a cloche over them in September. Take inventory of the vegetable seeds you'll use for your winter garden. A lot of them are sown around the first of June, and it'll take at least a week to receive any you mail order.


Same as before - start more salad greens.

June 1st is my target date for sowing Brussels sprouts and cabbage. If direct-sown, they will germinate quickly and grow fast. However, if June is wet the slugs can quickly decimate these brassicas, so I usually start them indoors now. Any late-season corn should go in now, in order to have time to mature. Even if it's cloudy, June's long days mean the soil won't be too cool. Sugar-enhanced varieties may still need a little help, though, so consider using clear plastic over the bed if the sun isn't cooperating.

Fall broccoli and cauliflower should be sown during this first half of June. I like to grow them under a tent. This protects them from both the cabbage maggot and the cabbage worm. Cucumbers grow rapidly, and will produce even if they are started at the end of this month! It's a good thing, too. Cukes need warm soil to germinate, and that's not always the situation earlier in the month. Using a cloche, or covering the bed with clear plastic, will usually generate the necessary extra heat.

Summer squash can be direct-sown anytime now. I guess you don't really need me to tell you that. Move your peppers and eggplant out into the garden now. They will do a lot better if you provide a cloche. These two cousins grow much better with warm daytime temperatures, and the inside of a cloche will easily add 10 degrees on a cloudy day. In all likelihood, the basil you started earlier will start running to seed soon. Early June is a great time to start more. With the warmer temperatures, the basil won't go to flower nearly as fast.

Early to mid June is a good target for starting a late bed of potatoes. Yukon Gold, put in now, will give you a nice harvest in fall. Take a deep breath. Look around. The second half of June is time to get caught up in your garden. If you've been too busy, or the weather has just not cooperated, you can still get those early June chores done and still be successful. It might also be worthwhile to consider starting some of the early July winter root crops a few weeks early. June's weather is often more cooperative than July's when it comes to keeping slow-germinating seeds moist.


The weatherman will tell you that July 12th is the date (on average) that summer arrives in the Maritime Pacific Northwest. It's also when the bulk of your winter garden has to be started as well! You might feel a bit funny getting sunburned while sowing winter carrots, but you'll get used to it. Sow salad greens one more time. Be sure to keep some seeds for next month, when the winter greens have to go in.

Winter beets, such as Lutz or Winterkeeper, need to be sown before the 15th to be successful. Try to get it done around the 1st if you can. You can be more flexible with carrots. Between the 10th and 15th is ideal for most winter-cropping varieties, but sowings as late as the 31st will still give you useable (but smaller) roots. Earlier sowings will work as well.

You can still plant pole beans: It's better to get them started in June of course, but it's still not too late! I've had the most success with kohlrabi if I sow it around the 15th, although Territorial recommends a date between July 20th and August 10th. Try two different sowing dates, to get a handle on what works best in your garden. The timing will be affected by your exact location, soil fertility, and the relative abundance of cabbage maggot flies.

In my garden I need to get the overwintering cauliflower and (sprouting) broccoli started by the 15th if I want a decent harvest the following spring. July 15th is usually a safe starting date for most of the day length-sensitive mustards. If sown now, they are unlikely to bolt. Your leeks are probably about ready to shift to their final location. Try to pick a rainy day if you can, but how likely is that in July?


Summer may start on July 12th, but sometimes it ends well before August 31st! The days are starting to get noticeably shorter, and sometimes we can get surprised by a very cold night. Frost, however, is still at least a month away. Winter lettuce will size up best if sown during the first half of this month (later sowings will still work, but the plants will be somewhat smaller going into winter). The various chicories (endive, escarole, radicchio, etc.) need a good amount of time to mature, especially if they are the heading types. Right now I'd recommend a sowing date of August 1st for all of these. Be aware that I've only tried winter radicchio a handful of times, so I don't have the best sowing date nailed down yet. Spinach can be started now. It matures faster than most of those other greens, and can be successfully sown as late as the 31st.

I like to start corn salad (mache, or lamb's lettuce) right about the 15th of August. Arugula, if put in between mid-August and early September, will size up without bolting. Okay, without bolting immediately, at least! Play around a bit with overwintered onions to find the best starting date. I try to start mine about the 15th. If you haven't grown them before, consider making three sowings (on the 1st, 15th, and 30th) and go from there.


The days are quickly getting shorter, but there's still time to plant! This is a perfect time to sow arugula, or some of the fast-growing Asian greens. Try a couple different sowing dates to see what works best for your garden. Walla Walla onions, which dry down later than most other overwintered onions, can be started as late as mid-September - I've gotten good bulbs in July after sowing Walla Wallas that late. You can still get away with sowing lettuce and spinach - but the plants will be much smaller going into winter. Space them accordingly.

Plant some radishes. You should probably still protect them from the maggot fly using a row cover. Leave your winter squash and pumpkins on the plant for as long as you can. Remember that a fully ripe squash will have a hard stem. If frost or disease severely damages the leaves, though, harvest them. As you clean up after your summer crops, prepare the beds for next year. Lime the beds with dolomite and add organic matter, such as leaves or compost. It's not too early to sow a cover crop either. Garlic can be planted anytime that the ground isn't hard, but I prefer putting it in toward the end of September. That way it's sure to get established, and it'll even show some top growth this fall.


Planting time is mostly over, but that doesn't mean it's time to take a break! Covering your beds will help build your soil up for next year, and protect it from all the rain that'll be falling over the next six months...

Prep your beds as they become available. This is when I clean out my chicken coop and prepare the girls’ house for winter. I use the chicken manure/ shaving mix to cover my beds for the winter. Have you planted your garlic yet? Usually the second half of October displays a marked deterioration in the weather. If you've got cauliflower and broccoli that are still going, consider setting up some sort of cover for those plants. They are cold hardy enough to last through November - but constant rain will ruin them. It's also a good time to start protecting your winter greens from the rain. If the weather is nice, though, they'll appreciate some unfiltered sun.


If you've got tree leaves available, remember that they make good mulch for unused beds. They can also be used to insulate crops that aren't slug prone, such as leeks - these are much easier to dig if the soil isn't semi-frozen! Apply lime in accordance with soil test recommendations. For best results, incorporate lime with the soil. One ton/acre =about 50 lb per 100 sq ft (32 x 32 ft)

Remove apple root suckers. My secret fertilizer is horse apples in a tub filled with water with an aquarium pump & air stones in it. The bacteria grow in it and seem to help with damping off. My orchids in the house bloom well with this. I have drip systems and timers everywhere. I set them up when the weather dries out. To help me remember, I schedule things in my brain like this: on the 8th of the month plant salad greens, beets, transplants out or new starts in garage. Every Tuesday after my radio show I connect the drip system to the hose to water the orchard, and water the orchids. I have the original calendar with all these details in my garden binder where I keep my map and other notes.

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