Hands in the Dirt: MLT gardening tips for April 2021

It truly feels like spring outside. My forsythia is blooming (time to prune the roses!), and so are most of the cherries and plums. My apologies to those with allergies, but I love it!

Does anyone else feel like they’re growing a production farm of shotweed? I pull and pull, but it just keeps popping up in the garden. Shotweed, also known as hairy bittercress, spit weed, or wild cress, is one of the worst offenders at the Ballinger Organic Garden (BOG), and one of the reasons weeding is always on these monthly gardening task lists.  If you don’t pull it before it sets seeds, you’ll just keep weeding and weeding as the seed pods split open and send their seed flying like a shot in all directions. Some of the other BOG weeds, including mint and buttercup, spread by stems that root at the nodes (and mint sends out underground rhizomes), so while they are still important to pull in a timely manner, you don’t have the immediate explosion of seeds like with the shotweed. All of the above are why weeding is always on my monthly to do list!

The start of a new month means it’s time to start some greens. Lettuce, spinach, and radishes can all be direct sown in the veggie garden now. Peas can still be planted, but it’s a good idea to hurry.  If you have heavy pest pressure on direct sown peas, you can always start seeds inside and transplant out after they sprout.

Tomatoes and peppers can still be started indoors, but like peas, you’re about to run out of time. If you miss the window for starting tomato seeds, don’t worry, you will still have ample time to purchase started plants in May when they should be transplanted outdoors. Looking for heirloom varieties in May and having a hard time at stores? Or just want more plants?  Tomato suckers, the side shoots that grow between the main stalk and a leaf, can be rooted rather quickly to become another plant.

It’s still too early to start seeds for warm weather plants like basil, cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, zucchini), or melons. Typically they can be planted in late April if the weather starts warming up.  Cucurbits are particularly sensitive to having their roots disturbed, so either start seeds in a peat pot that can be planted, or transplant long before the start gets rootbound.

We still have a ton of seeds available for all at the MLT BOG free seed library. Contact us to set up a time to peruse the library and get growing!

Have a question about gardening?  Post it on our Facebook page.

About the BOG

The Ballinger Organic Garden (BOG) is a volunteer-led effort to develop a community garden at Ballinger Park. The BOG, in partnership with MLT Recreation & Parks and the MLT Senior Center and funded by a grant from the MLT Community Foundation, is currently in “Phase 0” while larger construction activities (creek restoration and trail installation) are completed.  Phase 0 includes maintenance of the existing raised beds and a garden plot on the south side of the MLT Senior Center in Ballinger Park. Phase 1 will involve installation of a larger garden with plots available for community members to maintain.  Want to volunteer, or have an idea of what you want to see in the future garden? Please let us know.

To stay up to date on what is happening at the BOG, including what’s growing, work parties, and events, follow us on Facebook  or Instagram.

Robyn Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, pulling weeds and picking up rotten fruit as dreaded chores assigned by her Master Gardener father. Today, Robyn is a fisheries biologist for an environmental consulting firm, and has been gardening in the Seattle area since 2010. Her science background leads to endless research about the “correct” way to do things, but her enthusiasm and sense of adventure leads her to garden fearlessly because hey, what’s the worst that could happen?


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