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A Week in My Garden

For those of you who haven't met me, my name is Joy and I am the Massachusetts Promise Fellow for The Food Project's Boston location this year. Last year, Kesiah did a wonderful job of taking you step-by-step through the Growing Guide and chronicling her journeys in her garden. This year we will continue that tradition by answering your questions about the gardening process. Whether it is pest control or yield increase, we will try to touch on common problems and focus on solutions that will keep your garden happy and healthy.

New this year, we will have "A Week In My Garden" segment. Each month we will feature one of you, our great Build-a-Gardeners! If you’re brand new to gardening or have had one for years, this segment will take us inside different gardens for a week as each featured gardener shares how they are balancing the management of a garden along with their busy schedules!

A Week In My Garden
Featured Gardener: Joy Gary of Mattapan

How many years have you been gardening in Massachusetts (or northeast U.S.)?
Three years.

What tips would you like to share?
1. Start now! It is officially April, which means it is time to plant! Even with the surprise snowfall on April 1, certain plants actually prefer to get started while the temperatures are cool. If you haven’t created a garden plan, then take a few minutes and do it today. If you are looking for ideas on how to set up your garden, see my set up below and check out pages 24 and 25 of your Growing Guide.

Work the compost in with soil.
Work the compost in with soil.
2. Prep your raised bed before planting. Start by adding several bags of compost to your raised bed (a layer of 2-3 inches is enough). Work the compost into the soil with a pitchfork or shovel to loosen it up and break up big chunks. I did this today!

3. Read your Growing Guide (or download a copy here)! It is such a great tool. I’ve learned so much about maximizing yield from this guide and I can’t wait to start implementing its tips this year.

4. Make a grid. To maximize space in a raised bed, we recommend the square foot growing method. The easiest way to use this technique is to make a visible grid on your raised bed. Before planting, measure and mark off each foot along all sides of your bed frame. Next, hammer in nails at each mark, and then string the bed. It's so simple and we promise it will make your life much easier as a beginner gardener! Below is a picture of my garden using the string method.

Mark your bed with a grid.
Mark your bed with a grid.

 

Will you plant anything this month or week?
I originally planned to start planting today, April 1. But because of the snow and cold temperature, I will wait until this weekend. And you can too! The forecast predicts Saturday and Sunday to be in the high 40s and low 50s. This is perfect for planting cool weather crops. You would be amazed by the number of crops you can start planting from seed into your garden. Below is a list suggestions for when you should plant different crops this month.

 

What to plant in April:

Early April: spinach, cilantro, peas (plant at base of trellis), bok choy, radish, swiss chard, salad mix
Mid-April: beets, lettuce, onions (by transplant)
Late April: carrots, kale, broccoli, collard greens

Mother Earth News has another great resource for what to plant when. Check out their link here.

Don't forget to gently water the area that you seed. Keep the area fully moist until the seeds start to sprout/germinate. Be sure the garden is fully watered by sticking your finger into the soil to your first knuckle, and feeling for moisture at this depth.

With such a busy schedule, how do you plan to incorporate gardening into you life?
By starting early. There is something about waking up early and going out into the garden. The cool morning dew and the fresh earth aromas are energizing. While gardening is a part of my job, I plan to make time in the early morning hours to check in on my plants and water them. Watering in the morning cuts down on the evaporation, which will allow the plant to drink more of the water.

Top two reasons to have a garden?
Firstly, freshness. As a foodie I’m always looking for fresh and high quality ingredients. And what is more fresh than food growing a few feet from where you live? There is nothing like picking off crisp leaves of fresh basil from your backyard and blending it with garlic and oil to get a nice pesto.

Secondly, practicality. It was only two generations ago when my family practiced growing food on a farm in Arkansas. It wasn’t a hobby, it was life. Having a garden is such a practical skill to have, to be able to take care of yourself. My belief is similar to that of the scientist, Bill Mollison. He said, “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children." For me, that means: practicing how to grow my own food, build my own home, and make my own clothes. All else are cherries.

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