Time for a Little Planning

Friday, April 4th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Prune Hydrangeas now by removing old flower heads down to the first new leaves. Don’t prune stems which have no old flowers, and they will bloom first this summer.
    • Apple trees are still available as bare-root trees, but only for a short while longer. Start your orchard now!
    • Forsythia, with its bright yellow flowers, is one of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring. Plant one in a sunny spot where you can enjoy its cheery flowers.
    • Last chance for asparagus roots this year. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.

Time to Plan the Garden

With the drought crippling some of the main agricultural areas of California, the state that produces a third of the country’s fruits and vegetables, this may be the year to plant your own vegetable garden. Mendocino County has a fairly good water supply with recent rains, and with food prices on the rise, now is a the time to get started.

Start with a plan, whether a simple one or a complex diagram, so that you’ll be ready to begin planting when the weather permits. You need to decide what you are going to plant and when you are going to plant it.

Vegetables can be divided into warm season crops and cool season crops. Cool season crops include broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, peas, carrots, onions, beets and potatoes. Some warm season crops are tomatoes and peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, corn and beans.

Cool season vegetables can be planted directly into the garden in March. These hardy plants can stand the frosts that continue through March and April.

Warm season vegetables can be planted in the garden beginning in May. The average date of the last frost in Willits is May 12th, and sometimes there are killing frosts through the month of May. So you need to be prepared to protect young transplants and seedlings until summer arrives.

You can also plant some of the cool season vegetables for a fall crop, but these must be set out in August in order to fruit before the very cold weather arrives in mid-November. Part of your garden plan should leave room for these fall vegetables. In our climate, if you wait until the summer crops come out before you plant the fall crops, it will be too late.

First decide which vegetables your family eats and have some idea of how much. Do you eat one head of lettuce a week or three? Then determine how much produce you want to can, freeze, dry, or store. Successive plantings of certain crops, such as beans, will give a longer harvest period and increase your yield.

Try not to plant vegetables from the same family (peas and beans or squash and pumpkin) in exactly the same location in the garden more often than once in three years. Rotation prevents the buildup of insects and diseases. Use your previous years’ plans as guides for rotating crops.

A good vegetable garden must have at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Eight to 10 hours a day is ideal. No amount of fertilizer, water, or care can replace needed sunshine.

An area that gets less sun can successfully grow beets, chard, carrots, radishes, cabbage, spinach and lettuce.

Once you have a plan laid out, visit your local nursery to choose seeds from the seed racks and you will be ready to plant. You will also find transplants there in season and plenty of help for new gardeners. Happy gardening!