Hands in the Dirt: MLT gardening tips for April

While the world is in a very interesting place, at least gardening has not been canceled. We can trust that if we plant seeds in soil, and provide water and sunlight, the seed will sprout. Bring on April!

If you are new to gardening and looking for plants or seeds, you still have many local options. Sky Nursery (Shoreline) is taking orders over the phone, with no-contact pick up. Molbaks (Woodinville) and Swansons Nursery (Seattle) are taking online orders, and allowing in-store shopping by reservation. Flower World (Snohomish) is open for business as usual with more cleaning procedures in place. Fred Meyer, Ace Hardware, Home Depot, and Lowe’s will also have many of the seeds, starts or tools you may be looking for.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s time to weed! Applying a few inches of mulch, like arborists wood chips, after weeding can stop future weeds in their tracks. It can also help prevent soil erosion and promote water retention.

I like to start some greens at the beginning of each month, and 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.  Tomatoes and peppers can still be started indoors, but like peas, you’re about to run out of time.  Confession — I started all of my tomatoes on April 1. I have a history of being over-eager in the spring, starting too early, and planting 3-foot-tall plants in May. My harvest didn’t start any earlier and the hassle of up-potting multiple times was not worth it. I’m a little behind my normal schedule, but it shouldn’t impact my plants or harvest this year.

Hold off on warm weather plants like basil, cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, zucchini), or melons until late April. 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. I know you’re excited, but put down the bean and corn seed packets! These heat lovers need to wait until the end of May, or when nighttime temperatures remain above 50°F.

Our seed swap on March 1 was a great success. We traded an amazing number of seeds, and even more amazing was the number of seeds left over after the event. We intend to give as many free seeds away to local gardeners as possible, and have already distributed seeds to over 40 gardeners. If you are interested in free seeds, or know someone who may be, please get in contact with us about picking some up.

Have a question about gardening? Ask it on our Facebook page (facebook.com/mltbog)!

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 and 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 (facebook.com/mltbog) or Instagram (Instagram.com/mltbog)!

— By Robyn Rice

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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