Do you feel like you could have been gardening for a month already? This is the weekend when Mainers traditionally plant their peas, lettuce, carrots, radishes and other cool-season crops. But except for a deluge here and there, the soil has been thawed and dry enough to plant for a month.

Up until Easter weekend, when it approached 80 degrees, I had been saying that we were going to get an 18-inch snowstorm before spring really arrived. I’ve given up that prediction, and I actually put in peas, potatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuce, kohlrabi and Swiss chard last weekend. If you have not planted yet, don’t worry. I have found that pushing the season seldom gains you much.

And if the weather cooperates, I will be out planting today and Monday. I still have leeks and onions and other plants to put in.

We are going to try or retry a number of vegetables this year. Thanks to a root-cellar course I took from Dick Brzozowski of the University of Maine Extension last year, our vegetables stored better than ever. We still have onions and potatoes in good shape from last year’s crop, but we didn’t grow enough storage vegetables.

So this year we are going to grow cabbage and giant kohlrabi, fall-crop beets and fall-crop carrots. We have grown cabbage in the past but got done in by cabbage worms. Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family, and it would be susceptible as well.

Back then we did not use any pesticide on the cabbage, but now we know that Bacillus thuringiensis — a naturally occurring bacteria that kills only the worms and would be acceptable on organic gardens — will work. I also am tempted to give broccoli a try once again if I am going to be using Bt anyway.

The fall-crop beets and carrots won’t really be taking up any extra room in the garden, because they will be going in where the peas have just been harvested. We haven’t done much succession planting in the past, but we are going to give it a go this year.

We also are going to be growing more beans. Granddaughter Brighid (same girl as granddaughter Brigit, new spelling) informed us a few weeks ago that beans are her favorite vegetable. So we will grow green beans, and any that Nancy and I don’t eat can go to Brighid and her parents and sister.

I also ordered black tepary beans, which Fedco says will grow in the Northeast. I have liked them when I ordered in restaurants in Arizona.

The other thing I am going to try is putting transplants — especially tomatoes and vining crops — farther apart than I have in the past and trying to get them to grow up instead of out. Two extension educators — Lois Berg Stack of the University of Maine and Cheryl A. Rich of the University of New Hampshire — outlined the rain-soaked disaster that was the gardening season of 2009 in a presentation at New England Grows.

The problem wasn’t just late blight, although that got the most publicity. A plethora of fungal diseases hit the plants. And one of the best way to fight them is to create more airflow through and around your plants. So, the plan is to give the plants more room and, if possible, allow them to climb.

I think that this is the year that Nancy and I will finish the driveway garden. It looks great so far this spring, with daffodils blossoming brightly.

This is the garden along our driveway where we have cut down and removed multiflora roses, bittersweet and “volunteer” honeysuckle bushes. All of the new plants look like they survived. We have about 10 yards of multiflora roses still to remove and kill, and the honeysuckle keeps resprouting.

With all the other gardening work we have, we probably won’t get back to the driveway garden until fall. But I look at it with an evil eye every day when I leave for work.

My longtime favorite tree, a saucer magnolia we planted in the early 1980s, has died. It has been weakening for a while, so last August I put in a Leonard Messel magnolia to replace it. The replacement has wonderfully fat flower buds on it already, but I am going to have to get around to cutting down the dead one.

Other things will come up during the year, I am sure. I worry that the wonderfully warm spring has been just a tease, and that the summer will be cool and wet. Or, alternatively, there will be a drought.

But part of the joy of gardening is that it is never the same each year. Nature is going to throw stuff at you, and you are going to try to deal with it.

And maybe granddaughter Alana will decide that her favorite vegetable is Brussels sprouts, and I will have to plant some of those for her.


Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

[email protected]


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