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Frogs are croaking, last fall's crops are wintering over; wow, what a spring!

All Things Growing

April 08, 2010
I have gardened in Western Maine for nearly 40 years and, barring the intervention of a greenhouse, have never had some of these vegetables winter over. I attribute their resilience to an early snowfall (before the frost had gotten into the ground) and an extremely early and mild spring (it's not over yet). Still, if this weather continues, count yourself treated to a southern Connecticut spring.

On the night of April 1, I sat down to sautéed parsnips and fresh carrots from the garden. Earlier in the day, I planted mixed greens, radishes and peas. The garlic planted last fall is up a few inches.

However, none of this points to a long and hot summer and as a gardener wishing to harvest long and bountifully, I am laying out a strategy for success no matter what the rest of the season brings.

• I will assume that April will offer cool nights so greens will grow well. This cool period may extend into May. Lettuce varieties will shift from loose leaf now to semi-head lettuce later.

• I won't rush to plant frost sensitive seeds or plants until well into May. The ground warms up slowly. Sensitive plants like tomatoes and eggplant either stall when planted early or simply get sick and die.

• I will cover part of my garden with a small greenhouse to keep it dry if the summer turns wet again. Too much rain has hurt the tomato crop two years in a row. They need heat and dry weather.

• I will plant many seedlings in pots and flats so that I can plug holes left by harvested or gone-to-seed plants, thus utilizing my garden space to its maximum capacity. Seedlings of broccoli and chard can be poked into spaces where cauliflower and lettuce was removed.

• Starting now, I will eat what the garden offers and remember to plant the same crops again so that next spring I can harvest again. If possible, I will add to that list, since fresh vegetables at this time of year are a treat.

I will listen to the frogs, eat the parsnips and carrots, and get serious about the garden. Each year, a third of my plantings are exploratory. I try new vegetables that I have seen or tasted (tiny immature Patty-pan squashes, fennel for roasting, multicolored carrots). I plant seeds that I have saved from the year before (does that really work?). And I look for the volunteer seedlings in the garden (cilantro is my favorite) that remind me that I am the not-so-innocent bystander who decides how the garden grows and what grows there.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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