I looked out the dining room window on Sunday afternoon and realized the black cherry tree outside was putting on new leaves.
We are now within the critical time period for establishing a garden here in Lower Alabama.
After seeing the cherry tree, I had to look up the last frost date, as I knew it must be close.
Out in the food forest, the mulberries and pomegranates are waking up after their winter sleep.
This is a difficult time and fraught with danger, as we are often subject to late freezes that can undo the best gardening plans.
If you don’t plant early, the weather gets too hot for your cool-season vegetables, such as cabbages, kohlrabi, radishes, English peas, potatoes, beets, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions and turnips.
Look at this weather!
You’d think we’d be fine planting corn, pumpkins, green beans, okra, melons, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and all the good crops of summer.
And we might be.
But we also might not be. One night below 32 – which is likely before the end of March – and POW! That work is done.
Yet the weather is also getting too hot and humid for many summer crops by June/July. And the bugs! They come in swarms to destroy your hard work as the days warm and lengthen.
This time right now is key for getting in the cool-season plants and preparing to start the warmer plants. In the greenhouse right now we have zinnias and marigolds, tomatoes and eggplants, peppers, cabbage, Jamaican sorrel, tobacco and more, safely getting a head start on the spring garden.
We could have started more cool-season vegetables more than a month ago. But we weren’t ready. Now the time is short!
Outside of the vegetable garden, it’s time to start grafting pears. There are wild Bradford pears all over the place which we’re going to re-graft with good fruiting pears.
It’s also time to propagate bamboo. One of the clumping types on the property is putting up new shoots. If we catch it now we can divide some off to plant elsewhere.
We also have bare-root fruit trees that need planting.
And some dormant trees in pots that should go in the ground before they awaken.
And apple trees that are waking up, which need to be mulched and have the grass cleaned up from around them.
And the Grocery Row Gardens need the weeds of winter pulled before the shoots of ginger, Jerusalem artichokes, cassava, potatoes and other roots start appearing.
Everything happens all at once! It’s an exciting time.
A good start now sets the pace for the rest of the year.