April is the month for more clean-up and prepping things for planting time. Earth Day is April 20, so consider planting a tree for Mother Earth.
Ramp up your garden prep by cleaning up debris this month. Gently rake it up or use your hands to avoid breaking off new growth of perennials and reseeders just popping up.
Last chance to get a soil test done before you start planting!
Get your compost piles organized. I have three that I rotate. One is old enough to put on beds, the second will be ready next year, and the third is the one I currently dump kitchen scraps into. Screen the compost that’s ready to use and add it to your beds. Turn it into your soil. Or not. Read on.
A couple years ago, I did an experiment with no-till. I put my compost on top of one bed. I got out my flat-tined pitchfork (I call that a dung fork), put it into the soil, and rocked it back and forth a bit. Then I stepped back and did it again. This is how you use a broadfork. I planted lettuce mix and spinach in that bed, and they grew as well as in a bed completely turned over. So I just ordered myself a real broadfork to do all my beds this way. The tines of a broadfork are designed to dig deep and loosen hardpan and compacted soil, so hopefully my beds will loosen up way below so I can make them sunken instead of slightly raised. But the real benefit of a broadfork is that you don’t disturb the soil structure or the microorganisms. You also don’t bring weed seeds to the top, which means less weeding through the season. We’ll see. Stay tuned for the report!
Divide your perennials and make new borders or share with friends. Take that dung fork, work it slowly into the center of the plant, and gently break it apart without hurting the roots, like you could with a shovel. The ideal way to do this is to use two forks back to back to break the plant up. Clean up the tops, and replant in a suitable size hole with added compost. Water in well, and mulch after the soil warms up a bit.
Plant perennial food crops this month, too. Rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, and Jerusalem artichokes are a few.
Make sure your tools are ready to be used! Take them down to Rocky Mountain Forest & Garden by the north end of Placitas for tune-ups and sharpening.
Plant your cool-weather vegetables late in the month. Lettuce, kale, Asian greens, Swiss chard, broccoli, and spinach are a few crops that do best in cool weather. Get starts or direct seed them. Starts just give you a jump on the season. Buy some Johnny Jump Ups and pansies to brighten up your entryway. I saw some at Ace the other day.
Start tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and peppers in the next couple of weeks. Count back from your average last frost date (I use June 1st) 6-8 weeks for these crops. All the summer crops are available for ordering.
Enjoy the spring! Bulbs will be coming, and there will be new growth on perennials, shrubs, and fruit trees. The days will get longer and warmer. Savor this transitional month. A busy summer is on its way!
Short season tomatoes – Moskvich, Bison, and Super Tomato.