New England

May, 2012
Regional Report

Plant Greens in Part Sun

Sure, a spot in full sun is the best place for a vegetable garden. But what if all you have available is a location that only gets a half day of sun -- or less? Many kinds of greens will give a reasonable harvest without a full day of sun. Plants might be a little less productive, but you'll still be able to enjoy a homegrown harvest, especially if you're picking at the "baby greens" stage. Arugula, lettuce, spinach, mesclun, Asian greens like tatsoi and mizuna, bok choy, chard, kale, and mustard greens are all good candidates for gardens that get at least 3-4 hours of direct sun a day. If your garden gets a little more sun, at least 4-5 hours, try peas, beans, and root vegetables like beets and turnips picked at the "baby" stage.

Plant Beans

Bush beans bear relatively quickly and for just a few weeks, so unless you'd like a big harvest all at once for freezing or canning, make small succession plantings every two weeks until midsummer for a moderately sized, continuous supply. Pole beans take longer to begin bearing, but produce a steady harvest over a longer period of time and take up less garden real estate as they climb up their supports. But wait to plant either kind of bean until the soil is nice and warm.

Help Carrot Seeds Germinate Well

Carrot seeds are slow to germinate and the tiny seedlings often have trouble shouldering their way through the crusted soil surface. To help them out, especially if your soil is heavy, try covering seeds with sifted compost, sand, or vermiculite rather than soil. Some gardeners spread a piece of damp burlap over the seed bed to keep the soil surface soft, removing it as soon as the seedlings start to emerge. Another strategy is to interplant carrots with radishes. The radishes germinate quickly, breaking up the soil surface so that the slower growing carrots have an easier time when they sprout. Harvesting the radishes also thins the carrot bed at the same time.

Protect Seedlings from Birds

Birds, especially crows, blackbirds, and grackles, will pull up and eat entire seedlings just as they are emerging from the ground. They seem to be especially fond of young corn plants. Although you can hang shiny aluminum pie tins or fluttery strips of mylar (available in garden stores) in an attempt to scare them off, birds usually get accustomed to these deterrents pretty quickly. The most reliable way to protect seedlings is with a cover of some sort. Row cover fabric laid down or stretched over hoops works well. Or you can make a tented structure out of hardware cloth or small mesh chicken wire. You can remove the protection once the seedlings are 6 to 8 inches tall and well enough rooted that the birds can't pull them out of the ground easily.

Grow Herbs in Pots

Even if you grow herbs in the garden, it's handy to also have a few pots of your favorite kitchen herbs right outside your back door so you can just dash out for a few sprigs to add to a salad, flavor a sauce, or garnish a dish. Basil, parsley, chives and cilantro grown in decorative pots are attractive as well as practical additions to your back steps or deck.

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