Spring is here! Welcome to the month of unpredictable weather, hot to unseasonably cold, generally the rain begins to trail off as we head towards summer. El Nino is looking to be intense according to the climate models so have something ready for protecting fragile starts. Landscape fabric is ideal to use as a shade cloth or protective row cover. Only use this above ground, never in the ground as it only encourages weed growth. Use cardboard and woodchips/mulch to naturally suppress weeds, it works 1000x better.
Don’t forget the index finger test for watering needs, new transplants and seeds can’t reach the deeper moisture found in the soil so be sure to keep them well irrigated.
I expect more heat than usual which means rolling the dice for some brave gardeners choosing to transplant summer crops before June. I’ve taken the bet and gambled, transplanting a few tomatoes and squash varieties. As long as I protect them with row covers or mini clouches, they should be alright since we grow in 100% aged compost which allows a soil temperature heat bump. We’ll see if the house always wins…
The big tasks this month are direct seeding nearly everything, and transplanting out your previously-started warm weather crops.
Watch the overnight lows; once your location is reliably above 50 at night you can move your hardened-off tomatoes outside. Since it’s not unusual for overnight lows to hover around 50 well into July, a little protection in the form of a low tunnel will really help your warm weather crops thrive through cool spring evenings.
Take advantage of growing spaces along fence lines and house siding that absorbs extra heat, plant near them for an additional heat bump for summer planting.
Your take aways for the month of May:
No crappy seedlings.
No Big Box starts. Go with locally grown seedlings – they are more likely to be varieties that will thrive in your backyard, and they are less likely to introduce new diseases to your garden.
Harden off seedlings before you give them a space in your garden. Assume all seedlings you purchase today were living in an 80 degree greenhouse yesterday and transition them gently.
Watch your overnight lows and be prepared to protect tender transplants against sudden drops in temperature.
Smaller plants establish and transplant better than older ones, so go with the 4″ tomato instead of the gallon. They’ll catch up, don’t worry.