This is the weekend to get serious about gardening. Sure, you've been fussing around when you get an hour or so, planting a short row of lettuce, spinach, carrots or beets. And most of the peas are in by now (although I've planted them as late as the last week of April and still managed to get a small crop). But let's get down to the real work.
That asparagus bed needs tending, and so does the strawberry patch. Rhubarb and onions should go in this weekend, along with horseradish. Stop planning and start doing. You're going to have a tough time keeping up later on if you don't start now. And don't glare woefully at the sky -- none of these vegetables are particularly tender. They'll ignore the next few frosts and cold rains, and so should you. ASPARAGUS -- You can plant new asparagus roots this weekend. Soak them in lukewarm water while you dig the trenches 12 to 18 inches deep and two feet apart. If the soil isn't fairly rich, you'll need deeper trenches to accommodate four to six inches of compost or organic fertilizer. Lay the roots spider-like in the trench, crown up and at least a foot apart. Cover them and mulch with something organic. They should have a total coverage of six inches. Obviously, this won't fill the trench, but there's a reason: As the crowns send out shoots and fronds, you should periodically give them a dose of mulch and compost throughout the season until, by fall, the trenches are level with the surrounding soil. Established asparagus beds need some attention now, too. Remove that nice mulch you laid down last fall, a few rows at a time, allowing a couple of weeks between mulch removals. This way, you can stagger your asparagus crop rather nicely. The earliest asparagus shoots will come out of the first unmulched rows, and so on, until the final row, which you can leave alone to produce at its leisure. STRAWBERRIES -- Treat them the same as you do established asparagus beds, removing mulch before new growth begins. To limit runners, lay black plastic between rows. Leave rather thick mulch around but not over the plants to keep down weeds, which strawberries don't like. RHUBARB & HORSERADISH -- Both are very easy to grow and to plant: Dig a hole about eight inches deep and lay the roots horizontally. Cover them up and forget them. Both should be planted in a sunny, out-of-the-way part of your garden, because they'll grow very large and full and need a good deal of space. ONIONS -- Plant seedlings or sets around areas that also will contain broccoli or any other brassicas, asparagus, eggplant, tomatoes and bush beans. Members of the onion family discourage a host of foraging insects that affect many vegetables. While lettuce is relatively pest-free, planting onions and low-growing lettuce in the same bed will give you two crops in one place, and they'll grow quite happily when crowded together in good soil. GENERAL PLANNING--This is a good weekend to lay out your garden in the garden, rather than on paper. I use builder's stakes -- available at hardware stores -- and string, to define beds. You can go one step further and use landscape ties or railroad ties to make the garden particularly attractive, if a little expensive. As you lay out the garden plot, be sure to allow plenty of space for paths; you should never have to walk among the growing vegetables, a practice that compacts the soil, preventing it from breathing. The main path should be at least three feet wide to allow easy access via cart or wheelbarrow; supplementary paths should be 18 inches wide so that you can lean over beds for easy harvesting. If you're fencing in your garden, make sure that the gate to the garden will accommodate a tiller and a cart. We all want to get the most out of our gardens, but I've found that crowding vegetables is far better than giving up path space. COLD FRAMES -- Many of us who started seedlings indoors have by now moved them to an outdoor cold frame. Check those frames at least twice a day. On hot days, the plants need ventilation or they'll simply curl up and die. Lift the lid of the cold frame a few inches, propping it open with a stick or rocks. Be sure to close them up tightly at night, and if frost is predicted, cover the cold frame with newspapers or old blankets. PLANT -- Strawberries, asparagus, peas, lettuce, onions, spinach, beets, carrots, turnips, garlic, fruit trees, shrubs, shade trees, grapes, roses..