Farmers, start your gardens!

I can’t believe the average last frost date is already here. It seems like just yesterday I was buying seeds and starting up this blog. So much to do, and the clock is ticking! I still haven’t started up my tillers, so I don’t even know if I’ll have any mechanical help getting my garden bed dug. I should have really thought about this sooner, but time sure goes by quick. It really is a good thing that I’m not farming for a living, otherwise I’d already be sweating bullets about my harvest. So, with the average last frost date officially behind us, let me be the first to warn anyone in MD/DC/VA to NOT transplant anything quite yet. The forecast is calling for some cold weather to roll in on Saturday. Now, planting seeds might be OK since the frost (if it happens) won’t damage a dormant seed, but don’t go bringing your pepper, tomato, and cucumber plants outside. It will definitely be too cold for them still, even without a frost event. Best bet for those plants is to use my cicada planting clock that I posted about a few days ago, or go with the tried-and-true date of mothers day. By May, all worry of cold and frost is well behind us, and that’s precisely why we start the tomatoes indoors in Mar/Apr. By giving them those extra months of time to grow indoors or in a greenhouse, they may not grow as fast and vigorous as they do in the summer, but you’re giving them a head-start. By May, your growing season has been shortened considerably so you wouldn’t want to start by planting a tomato seed at that point.

This is my deadline for getting my tillers up and running though, so cold or not, I have to get my dirt loosened up and ready for the plants. I have quite a bit of nice, dark organic matter (an old leaf pile that has decomposed nicely) in the land behind my house, so I plan on working that into the soil where “the farm” will go. Also, while not of much use this season, I’ve been dumping all of my wife’s salad by-products into the compost pile, getting it ready to use next year. Yes, unfortunately at this point is literally is just a big pile of wilted lettuce, egg shells, pepper cores and other non-meat food scraps. I do plan on buying or making one of those really nice tumbler-style compost bins, but I do like the idea of having a giant compost pit that a bin just couldn’t match in terms of size. I will probably mulch-mow my lawn to build back up the topsoil, so I won’t have any lawn trimmings to add to the compost, but at some point I will get a chipper/shredder. With that, I’ll have plenty of shredded leaves and chipped/mulched wood to add, which will add a ton of minerals to my compost. All of that will have to decompose, which means I might want to have more than one pile/pit/bin so that I can rotate and let one decompose while I’m pulling from the other.

While I’m at it, I might find out what BG&E does with all that mulch that they make when they trim the trees by the power lines. I saw the truck just full to the brim with freshly shredded tree trimmings. I’ll ask them if they can just dump the pile in my yard (I know, I bet the neighbors will LOVE that). Trees are full of minerals like potassium, calcium, carbon, etc, which makes for garden gold once it has a chance to break down and release all of its goodness.

So, for those that are itching to start your garden like me, this looks to be a good weekend (45 degrees? Could be worse, just wait til the 95% humidity days are here). Grab a shovel, tiller, or just jump in with your bare hands, let’s make the step towards growing what you eat and having fun while doing it.

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