April Showers Bring May Gardens

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Young girl in blue dress watering flowers with white watering canSpring is here and it’s time to plant that garden! If you are new to gardening, or unsure where to start, stop at the local library. With materials on everything from how to start a raised bed garden to site and crop selection for an organic orchard, it is a great resource for novice gardeners and seasoned horticulturists alike.

Here is a sampling of materials available at Fauquier County Public Library:

Those new to gardening may be surprised by how much food can be produced from a small patch of ground.  Follow these tips to ensure a bountiful garden and pantry.

Lettuce is usually high on everyone’s list and is easy to start from seed in early spring. Stagger plantings to ensure a continuous supply of these essential greens. Plant several varieties or a mesclun mix for a colorful salad with a spicy flavor. As the weather warms plant more heat tolerant varieties such as Red Leaf or Summer Crisp.

Add color and flavor to salads with tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are a good bet for the home garden because they’re prolific and a little easier to bring to maturity than the bigger beefier varieties. Basil is the perfect accompaniment to those tomatoes. One basil plant is often enough to add a pop of flavor to foods, but more plants are needed to make pesto.

Beets and radishes are staples of early spring gardens. Beet seeds don’t germinate well in the heat and radishes tend to bolt and get too spicy, so plant them early. Once harvested, replace them with all kinds of squash and cucumbers or with a planting of beans. Stagger bean plantings and change-up varieties to insure a steady supply or put them in all at once and prepare to do some canning.

And those squash, well, keep an eye on them! Visit squash plants daily when they start producing so they can be picked when they’re just right. It’s better to harvest them a little on the small side than leave them overnight. It seems they can triple in size in just 24 hours.

Fruits of various kinds are great for the home garden but take a bit more planning and year-round care. Right now everyone is thinking of strawberries. What does it take to grow them? Strawberries are a two year proposition since they really don’t produce much the first year. That first year is all about making and tending the strawberry bed so they’re ready to burst into fruit the following May.  Read up on strawberry cultivation to understand the process.

Raspberries canes and blueberry bushes also require dedicated space and a longer term care commitment, including thinning each year to keep production strong. Plant them in a sunny location, keep them well watered and be prepared to cover them with bird netting as the fruit begins to ripen.

For additional resources on gardening, stop by your local library location. Our friendly reference staff is happy to assist you.

Happy planting!

Jeanne Day, Reference Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library

*This article first appeared in the April 24 edition of Fauquier Times.

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