Guest Columnist - Bettylou Sandy
“April showers bring May flowers” is an old, but true statement. After the tremendous snow and ice of this past winter in Connecticut, we were ready for spring. March took too long to show signs of life, but it always does. April had so many gloomy and rainy days, we thought spring would never come, but the trees and flowers are blooming! The grass is ready for its first cut and the warm temperatures are here to stay!
In late March and early April I was able to tidy up my gardens and see what had survived the three feet of snow cover of this past winter. I was so pleased to see the perennial plants and winter vegetables did so well under the thick blanket of insulation. I had covered my gardens with a thick blanket of leaves last fall. The leaves had broken down to become good soil that provides my free fertilizer for the spring planting. The combination of the leaves and the snow provided great comfort to the plants and the earthworms for the winter.
The garlic, Egyptian onions and chives look very healthy this year. The Rhubarb in the framed raised beds is very bushy already. The Rhubarb in the flat beds is not as far along. We picked carrots at the community garden that were planted last fall. Carrots are one of the vegetables that winter-over for a fresh, sweet treat in the spring. This year we will plant more carrots in the fall and plant parsnips now, for a good harvest next spring.
The cold weather crops were planted a bit later this year, but are looking good for a harvest in late May and June. More people are planning for their fall plantings in August and September for a late season and springtime harvest. This economy has been a great opportunity for people to rediscover the joy of growing our own fruits and vegetables at our homes or in a community garden!
It is May and the time most people start thinking about planting flowers and vegetables outside. I hope when planning your gardens this year, you will include a wonderful, edible flowering plant of Nasturtiums. This plant provides both beauty and a tasty treat! The flowers, leaves and stems are edible. The leaves taste like baby spinach with black pepper. They do not have a shelf life, so they must be picked fresh for your salads. These flowers are a wonderful cascading plant to include in any container or wall garden. I soak the seeds overnight, and then plant them in the soil outside. Once they take hold, they produce lasting color, and food through October. They love the cool time of the fall and just keep going! Nasturtiums like full sun to part shade.
Another benefit of Nasturtiums is its value as a companion planting for all squash, cucumbers, potatoes and other vine vegetables to keep away predatory bugs. By “interpolating” with Nasturtiums, you will repel squash bores, cucumber beetles and potato bugs. It is also just another handy place to be able to harvest some salad greens and make the vegetable garden a more beautiful place!
In late May we can finally plant our Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, string beans and all of the warm weather crops. If you do not have much sun in your yard, try growing cold weather vegetables, like salad greens, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi, among others.
It is my hope that we will all grow a little more, on our own and encourage others to do so. If you would like to learn more, go to the CT NOFA website: ctnofa.org to learn about educational opportunities and resources.
It’s May! We made it through this historic winter!
© 2011 Bettylou Sandy Bettylou’s Gardening Manchester, Ct.