Springtime Tasks

April gives us good weather and our plants enjoy it too. Remember that plants of the cabbage family are true biennials, which means that last year they built up energy (which we stole as green leaves) and now they are using that energy to raise seed. At this stage we gardeners don’t get any benefit from their end-of-life exertions so we should pull them out. Another, and more compelling reason, is that we need the space they occupy for our summer vegetables. Remember that kale and some kinds of chard grow through the summer, so it may be useful to keep a few of them.

Rather than throwing away any green leaves of plants that are finishing their life, try blending a mix of leaves in a blender to make a “slurpy”. Add strawberries, a fruit juice, and a favorite flavor to get a tasty healthy finish to your cool season garden.

Another aspect of spring growth is the thickening of tree trunks ( as well as the more obvious upward growth) so if your fruit trees are tightly bound to a stake it will help if you loosen those ties. Put on new ties that allow the trunks to fatten without any hindrance. Take a piece of soft string and find its middle on the outer side of the trunk, bring it forward and cross it between the trunk and the stake, go round the trunk and cross the string again before you go round the trunk. Do this several times and you’ll get a “figure-of-eight” configuration of a tie that loosely holds the trunk to the stake. This safely allows the tree to thicken its trunk without any restriction.

Remember that our desert soils need to be replenished with steer manure, ammonium phosphate and soil sulfur twice a year in advance of summer crops ( just now!) and in advance of cool season vegetables ( in September). After rototilling stomp down the loosened soil and rake it from end to end of your plot to get it level (don’t forget sideways leveling too). This ensures you have a perfectly flat level planting area that allows the drip system to travel all over the soil. You’ll get poor distribution if the tape has to go uphill in places and into a low-lying area where water collects.

The soil temperature is good for setting out summer transplants but it will be too hot in four or six weeks. It’s then that we put out a mulch to keep the hot sun off our soil. Meanwhile our new plantings will benefit from warm soil.

Get going! This is the best time to prepare for summer crops.

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