Before rushing outside with trowel and new plants in hand, create a gardening plan for the year. My plan includes a list of everything I want to grow this season. All planting and other gardening chores are posted on a calendar. It reminds me to plant my vegetables in succession for harvests through fall and doesn't let me forget the long season plants that otherwise might get planted too late. A map shows me where to grow everything so that I don't run out of room. And don't forget to plant an extra row for the food bank!
Discover a CSA! If the garden does not supply all your produce needs, sign up for weekly deliveries of fresh produce grown at a local farm through Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs). For a list of nearby CSA programs, visit www.sare.org/csa/index or write CSA/CSREES, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Stop 2207, Washington, DC 20250-2207. Some CSAs have a special focus like salads, fruit, meat, or dairy, and can supplement a productive vegetable garden.
Dress Up. Side-dress fall planted garlic with compost and soil amendments high in nitrogen and keep the beds weeded. The large healthy leaves that result will provide ample energy for producing larger bulbs.
Greens Galore. Sow hardy greens (like kale, mustard, endive, chard) and parsley in sterile seed-starting mix in a greenhouse, cold frame, or in the house under bright lights hung two inches above the leaves. Transplant outdoors when plants have two sets of true leaves.
Herbs and Greens Tip. Arugula, curly cress, and cilantro do better when sown directly into the soil outside.
Pea Planting. Plant peas later in the month or when a week of warm weather is forecasted. Improve germination by pre-sprouting them indoors in a shallow pan under a damp cloth. When roots just begin to show, plant them outside in a sunny spot. If this doesn't work, start the seeds in small pots and transplant into the garden when the plants are a couple inches tall.
Super Strawberries. Plant a new strawberry bed or rejuvenate an old one by replacing about a third of the plants. Start a bed in a new location if production dropped off the previous year.
Blooming Assistance. Pick off spent blooms of early, spring-blooming perennials and bulbs. Prune perennials for shape and remove dead branches when they have finished blooming. To encourage daffodils and other bulbs to bloom again next year, do not remove their leaves.
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch. Mulch to stave off spring weeds and conserve moisture. Spread bark or other organic material a couple inches thick around shrubs and perennials. Trees enjoy mulch as well but don't let it pile up against their trunks.
Plant Patrol. Patrol the garden for slugs in the early morning or evening when they are out feeding and easy to find. They also like to congregate under wood planks. Cut every slug in half or drop them into a bucket of soapy water for the surest control.
Pest Solutions. Set apple maggot traps. Follow the directions from an organic supply company.