Spring has come to Hillside Gardens

It’s the beginning of April here in Auburn, Ga. The peach tree has bloomed and is now forming tiny peaches the size of a pencil eraser.

Baby peaches developing on the tree

Baby peaches developing on the tree

Tulips having been well frozen over our quite cold winter are now blooming happily in the garden beds.

Tulip blooming in wild strawberries.

Tulip blooming in wild strawberries.

The seeds are starting to sprout in the cold frame I built just before Christmas last year. Already lettuces from that effort have gone into the ground.

Going out in the beds this time of year is a thrill. For those who know me, you may have heard that I had a bad fall in the middle of a thunderstorm in January and crushed my right ankle, giving me 11 screws and a nice long piece of stainless steel on the fibula. So, I was laid up over the winter, only able to research, write, and move around in a wheel chair stuck in my house. At the beginning of March I’ve been released, the bone has healed and now all that is needed is soft tissue recovery.

The experience reminded me that we can be vulnerable, and taught me not to wear slippery shoes on wet grass steep hillsides. Now I wear treaded shoes by order of my husband who worries I’m out there doing ‘garden yoga’ when he’s at work. However, with the help of my new interns and my good recovery, we’ve managed to pull the weeds that went nuts in the new beds on the east side of the garden, and mulch them with lots of organic matter and compost.

Weeds pulled and laid onto open soil leaving viable plants.

Weeds pulled and laid onto open soil leaving viable plants.

Mulch is compost rich with chicken manure and organic matter.

Mulch is compost rich with chicken manure and organic matter.

 

Because we had such cold weather right at the end of winter, the plants didn’t do that well in the cold frame. Some made it but most did not. So, I’ve been forced to purchase plant starts at a grower’s outlet in Loganville, south west of us here. Bit by bit those plants are going into the prepared beds.

Winter beds thriving with new plants establishing in the empty spaces.

Winter beds thriving with new plants establishing in the empty spaces. I’m looking forward to the Gwinnett Tech College plant sale near the end of April and another in May. But I’ll work on sprouting some of my heirloom seeds for summer crops myself.

You can now most likely purchase bundles of onion starts at the nursery. They make nice border plants which inhibit the bugs from working on your tomato and other plants. If you have garlic from last year, some of them will have started to sprout now, so they can go in the soil as well, harvest-able in the fall. The onion family plants all help keep pests away from other plants as well as being delicious additions to your garden planting.

This is the time to start your tomato, pepper, eggplant, cucumber, pole bean, pumpkin, squash and gourd plants in protected spaces to be ready for the warmer weather at the end of May, and early June. I suggest getting some potting soil, adding peat moss and some vermiculite, and use that to germinate your seeds. Keep the soil moist but not wet until the seedlings are about 2” tall before either potting the individual plants in their own containers, or in the case of beans, pumpkins etc., placing them directly in the soil.

If you are growing lettuce, leave some room about every 18” in the beds to plant your tomatoes as lettuce is a companion to tomato. They also do well with onions, basil, garlic, carrots, and radishes (both of which can go in a row together, the radishes being quick growing and mark the rows of carrots).

When planning your spring and summer beds, remember to include flowers like nasturtiums, calendula, marigolds and flowering herbs of other kinds. These attract the bees and other pollinators to your beds and help insure everything comes to fruit.

Now’s the time to get busy and enjoy the spring, get your spring garden in the ground, and plan your summer crops. Have fun.

Diann Dirks

4/5/14

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2 Responses to Spring has come to Hillside Gardens

  1. vuelvancaras says:

    hello ms dirks,
    thank you so much for your work. my wife and i just moved to athens ga. we’ve a house with great trees around the edges and a dead lawn in front. food forest is what we want to do. i love your approach to the food forest. do you consult? we know next to nothing.
    thank you,
    john smartt
    allatu999 at yahoo com
    706 308 1112

    • didirks says:

      Hi John,
      How nice of you to say so. Food Forests can go anywhere almost. I was in Tennessee this weekend at Sequatchie Valley Institute and the mountain is about half food forest in amongst the native trees. Wonderful. Yes, I consult. I will contact you off site.
      Best, Diann

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