Howdy ya’ll! With a couple weeks left in April, I think it’s time for our second installment of proper plantings for the month. So if you’ve already got your beets buried, your carrots coming in, and your cucumbers cared for, here are a couple more to keep you going till month’s end.
Planting tomatoes always holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first vegetable I remember gardening with my grandfather. Tomatoes, or “pomodori,” as he called them, were a personal favorite of his, and much beloved by my grandmother for her special pasta sauce. They can be started indoors up to eight weeks before the final frost in your area, but don’t worry if the frost has come and gone. Tomatoes love the spring heat, so starting them right after the frost when its still a little cool out is not as crucial as it is with some other plants (Gardening zone 10 is the one extreme exception to the spring-heat rule. Though I cannot speak from personal experience, as I’ve never lived there, I hear they are more of a fall/winter crop in those areas.)
Three weeks after the frost date has passed, transplant your tomato seedlings outside into loamy soil in full sun, planting at least 2/3 of the stem into the crumbly dirt. While they love the sun, the plants also love to stay hydrated, so give them about an inch of water a week, directly onto the base of the plant. Its also a good idea to put your tomato stake or trellis in around the seedling right at transplant time, so you don’t damage them trying to prop up an oversized vine later on.
Alotta folks think corn is not worthwhile in small batches, and they have something of a point. Corn pollinates on the wind, and each stalk takes up a good bit of space, so your planting-to-reward ratio is much lower than with other crops. Despite this, I’d say folks who don’t think its worth it have either never heard of hand pollination, or have never tasted a freshly-picked cob of corn. Even if it only takes up a small part of your garden, I think corn is worth it, even their size makes them more of a late summer treat than a staple.
Two weeks after the last frost in your area, plant your corn directly outdoors, each seed one-inch down, spaced four-inches apart. Form your rows, spaced three feet apart, into a square. As mentioned, corn is a wind pollinator, and this will help the process. Once the stems reach about half a foot tall, you can cull the plants to about eight-inches apart, to give each plant more nutrients. Corn requires a lot of water due to its shallow roots, so make sure to give each plant about an inch and a half per week.
While you wont be hand pollinating anything in April, I feel I should detail the process a bit since I’ve mentioned it above. Once the tassels are open and shedding yellow pollen, snap a few off and walk through your rows in late morning, using the tassels like a feather duster over the silks of your corn plants. Keep this up each morning for about a week and viola! Your corn has been manually pollinated, and you won’t lose half of it to lack of pollination (picture the stunted stalks on the edges of large cornfields, for example).
Hope you’ve enjoyed these tips on (generalized) April plantings! Of course, as you’ve likely noted throughout, the frost date is more important than the words on the calendar, so always check that before you plant. Should you live in the extreme north or south, there’s always a chance your true planting date will be a little before or after the target month. Enjoy your gardens, that beautiful weather, and I will see you all next time!
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”
I enjoy Lars’s articles. I respect his desire to remain in an undisclosed location, but it would be helpful to know what planting zone he is in.