Here is what I am doing in the garden this week:
Clean up and mulch the path ways.
The weeds come out easily when the ground is wet. It is ok to walk on the pathways to clean them up and mulch them, but I avoid walking on the growing beds or doing much to the soil in the growing beds when the ground is really wet. Doing so would compact the soil and adversely affect the tilth. So, the paths are getting a little extra attention this year and I am mulching with a thick layer of cardboard and some rough bark mulch from Clifford’s lumber. This is not the regular bark mulch from a garden center - it is a byproduct of a local, family owned sawmill just down the road. I would not use it in all applications where mulch is needed, but it is perfect for paths and under trees and shrubs. It is a little too coarse for perennial beds (but that is a whole other topic, because really I don’t think bark mulch belongs in most perennial beds). Once the paths are clearly defined and mulched, the rest of the season will be so much less labor intensive in the garden. Some other mulch ideas for paths are burlap coffee bags (which you can find this Saturday at our New North End Plant Sale at Bibens Ace Hardware on North Ave in Burlington). straw (I recommend the organic straw from Aurora Farms in Charlotte), or a combination of newspapper and leaves. These are all pretty heavy duty recommendations for paths. I would not use a heavy mulch like this right under smaller growing plants because the decomposing organic matter uses up the nitrogen in the soil and starves the plants of the food they need for healthy growth. Mulching paths is satisfying and really pays off in the long run. Plus, you can do it in the rain.
Plant more salad greens and try out some new varieties of cool hardy vegetables, flowers and herbs
I just added two kinds of kohlrabi to the garden, green Swiss chard, some Italian bulb fennel, broccoli raab, dandelion greens and frisée. This weather is perfect for transplanting a few plants here and there into corners of the garden. Again, you want to avoid working your soil when it is wet, but it is entirely all right to loosen up small corners of beds and tuck in a few plants here and there. I just harvested my first planting or arugula and of mache and re-planted right into those spaces. I did not disturb the wet soil too much, and I think they will all be fine.
Picking out colorful annuals and cool foliage plants is the perfect antidote to the grey and the wet days we seem to be stuck in lately. I am covering my mom’s balcony with pots of geraniums, agastache, salvia, herbs, petunias, argyranthemum, canna, millet, banana, and heuchera. Heurchera, or coral bells, is an under-used plant in containers, and adds broad texture, interesting contrasting color (so many to choose from), and looks good all season long. We have a dwarf red banana we are growing this year that has a beautiful glossy red tinged leaf and looks really striking with the wispy orange of the Kudos mandarin Agastache and the red veined caramel heuchera. Tuck in a red oak lettuce here and there, and you will have a gorgeous container with edibles, perennial and season long interest that holds up well in rain, cold, heat, and dry. I love helping people make containers and have two more Make and Take classes coming up in June for shade loving containers. There is still room to sign up in both.
Wistfully choose heat loving crops
This weekend, I plan to select the tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, melons, cucumbers I want to grow, but I am just hardening them off for now. I am not planting them in the ground. This means that they will come inside at night if it is below 45F and they will go back out in the day time to feel the sun (wishful thinking?), wind, and rain and get used to real life outside. What I am not doing is planting them in the cold ground. That would just stress them out. They need soil that is 50F or warmer in order to grow well, and stressing them at a young age will weaken them when they are older and diseases start to settle in. Planting heat loving crops in cool weather is just asking for trouble down the road.
They love this weather. If you have an area that once was sun but now is shade, it is a great time of year to move those sun loving plants to a brighter spot, away from the encroaching shadow of shrub and tree. I took advantage of the dry and warm day on Wednesday to clean up a perennial bed and replant with shade loving plants under the shrubs that now cast shade. I used tiarella, pulmonaria, variegated Solomon’s Seal, Jacob’s ladder, and hostas. I love that sun to shade switch that inevitably takes place in a garden, the moving art of it all.
Hopefully, this gives you a good amount to do and scratches the gardening itch just enough. Happy gardening!