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Almost time to get growing

Almost time to get growing

Ok, maybe you shouldn’t plant those veggies just yet, but when you do, be sure to heed these helpful hints
Almost time to get growing
ohn Kulak shows off vegetable plants for the garden at Kulak’s Nursery & Landscaping in Rexford last week.
Photographer: marc schultz/gazette photographer

Now that it’s spring, you might be thinking about putting in that veggie garden.

Not yet.

“We could get a late frost,” said John Kulak, owner of Kulak’s Nursery & Landscaping in Rexford. “The rule of thumb used to be that you could plant around Mother’s Day. But the weather patterns have changed. Memorial Day weekend is the time to plant.”

Kulak learned that lesson the hard way. It was June 1, 2002, and 70 degrees — and his annual plants were all on full outdoor display. The next day it snowed.
“All my annuals were destroyed,” he said.

So wait until it gets a bit warmer.

Location, location, location is another thing to consider. A flat piece of earth is ideal, although small hills can be incorporated. The only issue is that those hills will require more watering because water flows downhill. The area must also get at least six hours of sun. More is better. 

Consider what veggies you want to plant. Don’t put a vegetable such as corn next to a patch of lettuce, because the corn’s height will cast a shadow on the lettuce. If you’re using seed, carefully read the package, which will tell you not only how far apart the seeds should be planted, but other hints like which is the best month to plant or whether you can get a second planting later in the season. 

“You need to design the garden,” Kulak said.

How’s your earth? 

“You can’t just dig a hole in your soil,” he said. “You need well-drained soil as well as a good pH of up to 6.87. Get your soil tested. People don’t understand why they don’t get good results. You must prepare your soil.”

Garden centers like Kulak’s can help you with this, as can Cornell Cooperative Extension. If the soil has clay, it will definitely need help, so add compost, which is usually ground-up leaves and grass clippings. Even if your soil does not contain clay, compost will give extra nutrients to your plants.

Mix it all to a depth of at least 12 inches. You can also add a top-dressing of a fertilizer. 

“Anything with roots wants good soil to germinate properly,” Kulak said.

Although it’s a thrill to see those little plants poke their heads out of the soil from the seed you planted, the trend for many is to plant presprouted plants.

“Seed sales are way down,” Kulak said. “Today’s generation prefers putting in baby plants. No one wants to wait.”

Farmers’ markets and many nurseries, including Kulak’s, sell these young plants. But those are coming from greenhouses where it’s been warm and humid. The plants need to be “hardened up.” Keep them in their pots in sun and well watered, but bring them in at night should it get cold. Then, they’ll be ready by Memorial Day to go full time outside. 

When you water your garden is important.

“Early in the morning is the best. If you water in the evening, water sits on the plant leaves and diseases like powdery mildew can result,” Kulak said.

Don’t deluge the plants. Just make sure they get a good drink. Mother Nature will take what she needs, Kulak said. Be on the watch for bugs like Japanese beetles or potato bugs. Spraying them with soapy water works well. Even better are ladybugs. Stay away from pesticides, Kulak said, although there are organic choices out there. 

Critters such as rabbits, groundhogs or chipmunks might be deterred by putting in raised beds at least 6 inches above ground level and bordered by cedar planks. Don’t use pressure-treated lumber because the arsenic in the process is poisonous. The beds can then be fenced off.

Gardening can also be done in pots, but be sure the planters are big enough and deep enough to accommodate the grown plant and that they have drainage holes. Good drainage helps prevent root rot, insects and disease problems. If your pot has no holes, add a few inches of stone where the water can go.

Among the veggies that work well for a patio garden usually in 3- to 5-gallon containers are tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and eggplant. Remember that some of these are vine-y and will drape, and might need support as the fruit can get quite large.

For smaller containers of about one gallon, you can find success with lettuce, carrots, onions, peas, peppers and radish. With their shallow root systems, they take up less space. Herb gardens, too, are great for window boxes or large baskets at least 10 inches deep. Popular this season are colanders filled with various types of lettuce.

And vertical gardens in which plants grow up a pallet are good for climbers like peas or beans, or even chard or herbs, Kulak said. 

All planters need a mix of garden or topsoil, compost and perlite, which helps aerate the soil, along with fertilizer or plant food added occasionally throughout the season.

No matter what method is used, gardening takes patience. 

“Whatever you put into it, that’s what you get,” Kulak said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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