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Just because you can, doesn't mean you should...

It's that time of year again when Mother Nature cannot make up her mind. One day it's 85 and sunny and the next, 55 and rainy. It is easy to understand why people want to plant, now....and why so many make the mistake of doing so.

Let me say it loudly, so everyone in the back can hear me "BE PATIENT"! It is not the time to plant tender annuals or any plant for that matter, that cannot tolerate frost. Believe me, Mother Nature isn't quite ready to give you her blessing. In our area (America, zone 7a) the last frost date is April 24th (or thereabout). This means, on average, that is the last killing frost of the spring season. This doesn't mean rush out on April 25th and plant! We have found that waiting until Mother's Day (in America) gives your new plantings their best chance of survival. It is a couple weeks after the "average" last frost date and gives Mother Nature time to get that one last cold snap in before she relents and everything warms up for good.

Now IS the time to start some of your seeds indoors. Herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and some leafy greens can all be started, as we are approximately 4-5 weeks out from the average last frost date. Since we wait to plant until Mother's Day (May 10th this year), we have a couple additional weeks for the plantings to grow indoors and then be set out to "harden off" during the day, before we plant them in the raised beds. If you are unfamiliar with the term "harden off", it simply means putting the plants outside for a few hours each day (temperatures permitting) to get them acclimated before putting them into the ground. Be sure to bring them in every night, you don't want them to get too cold.

All of the above applies to seedlings and tender annuals. If you are itching to get digging in the dirt, there are a few things that can go into the ground right now and will be happy about it. These are potatoes, peas, some lettuces, artichokes and kale. You can also directly sow the following seeds: carrots, radishes, turnips, mustard greens, spinach, beets, chard, lettuce, kale, onion sets, shallot sets and cabbage.

We have spent the last few days cleaning out our raised beds from overwintering. We do not clear our beds out at the end of the season. We prefer to let the foliage die back and provide additional ground cover and nutrients during the winter. Once the ground is able to be worked, we cut back the dead growth, remove any dead leaves and weed out the beds. Once they have been "cleaned" we add compost and natural materials such as well rotted manure, hay and fish fertilizer before planting.

This past winter we left our carrots in the ground, as an experiment, to see how they would do. This is what we harvested yesterday. I'd say it was a successful experiment and we will plant another late crop this year. I think we are also going to add some radishes to the mix and see what happens!

In the midst of everything that is currently happening, play with plants, not people. Go outside....get down in the soil and get dirt under your nails. Not only will it help you now, it will reward you in the long run! And please remember....just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD! Be patient and your garden will reward you.

Stay safe friends!

- The Pirate Chicken

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." — Audrey Hepburn

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