In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
May, 2001
Regional Report

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These heirloom 'Tall Telephone' or 'Alderman' peas may reach 6 to 8 feet tall in just a few weeks.

Veggie Planting for Spring

Spring has sprung upon us in double time this year. It seems like only yesterday I was planting broccoli and spinach! Usually, spring's moderate temperatures and naturally moist soil are ideal for encouraging plants to establish quickly and launch into strong growth. However, this year our mild April and May heat wave combined with a lack of rainfall had my 'Tall Telephone' peas wilting by lunchtime. On the flip side, the soil was warm enough to plant tomatoes a few weeks ahead of usual. The weather has left me scrambling.

Getting Vegetables in the Ground

I try to plant promptly so vegetables can develop ample roots before summer's heat and dry spells hit. This year it seems like everything needs to go in at once, including warm-soil crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons, and even okra. In fact, although it's still early on the calendar, the soil is drier, temperatures are higher, and the garden is on the verge of needing regular watering.

Keeping Veggies Watered

Transplants are always watered regularly (I use an old coffee can to dip water from a bucket). As plants grow, waterings become less frequent but increase in amount as root systems enlarge. Once plants are well established, the rule of thumb is to provide the entire garden with about 1 inch of water a week, either from rain or from the tap.

Mulching Them In

Using mulch helps keep the soil moist and cuts down on weeds. Earlier this year I used the ornamental grass trimmings to mulch the pathways. Now I am mulching the vegetable beds with a generous layer of baled straw. This mulch is clean, quick, and easy to apply and supplies organic matter to the soil. I've used straw with good results over the years, but any organic mulch is fine. You could use old rotted leaves, newspaper topped with (herbicide-free) grass clippings, cocoa bean shells, or whatever is available.

As busy as I am in the garden right now, it's worth taking the time to mulch. It will save countless hours in the long run. I'll have healthier plants--and a lot less watering and weeding.


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