A Note From Rick | Readying the Garden for Spring

March 16, 2022

By Rick Bogusch, Kathleen Kennedy

Bridge Gardens

March means spring arrives and the growing season begins. Time to uncover those rows of spinach you planted last September and protected during winter. Weed them, clean up any brown leaves, give them a side dressing of fertilizer or a liquid feed and you may be harvesting greens by end of month, the first crop of the season.


Greens in the cold frame

It’s also time to sow a row or two of arugula, additional spinach for late spring harvests, radishes, Asian greens, mustards and kale. A new arugula from Fedco sounds promising. It’s more flavorful than the commonly grown variety, much like sylvetta or wild arugula, which endures summer heat, produces an ample fall crop and often overwinters to do it all over again.

If you haven’t started broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds inside already, there’s still time. You may also try sowing directly outside after mid-April. This year, in addition to cabbage and cauliflower, we’re trying sprouting broccoli, which is non-heading and supposedly provides cuttings all season, as well as edible leaves.

If you have seedlings already, take advantage of days 40 degrees and above and start moving them outside. Remember to acclimate them gradually to direct sunlight, so you don’t sunburn tender young leaves. Start them in the shade and then expose to more and more sunlight over the next week or so. Cloudy and rainy days are perfect for starting the process. If temperatures are in the 30’s or lower at night or it’s extremely windy, bring the seedlings inside and put them out again when conditions improve.


Hardening off vegetable seedlings

March also means it’s time to clean up the gardens. In vegetable gardens, it’s time to weed, turn in cover crops, add compost and ready any trellises needed for peas. Elsewhere, it’s time to weed some more, edge, mulch, finish up any tree and shrub pruning and remove any fallen leaves smothering emerging perennials. Don’t forget to remove last year’s hellebore leaves, now torn and winter-burned, before flowers and new leaves appear.

It’s been a couple of years since we re-mulched paths in the Community Gardens. The old mulch has decayed into dark, crumbly, worm-filled organic matter, so we’re digging it out and adding this black gold to adjacent plots to increase soil depth and fertility.


Community garden plots getting freshly mulched paths

This month, we start removing mulch used to winterize roses in the Rose Garden. We always re-use it elsewhere. This year, it will help weigh down and cover sheets of cardboard in the low-mow area that connects the three arbors behind the Rose Garden. The cardboard and mulch will smother existing turf and create open spaces for planting native wildflowers like milkweed, asters and goldenrods. This project is part of an upcoming workshop on meadow gardening, presented by Brian Smith, formerly of Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI), a knowledgeable plantsman with much experience establishing meadows. Keep an eye on our calendar for more details on this interactive workshop.


Protective piles of mulch will be removed from the roses this month

March is also a good time to start fertilizing. We fertilize the vegetable garden and the community garden when we plant and repeat regularly during the growing season. Herbaceous ornamental plants are fertilized on a rotating basis, trees and shrubs only for the first 2-3 years after planting.

So, there’s lots to do! But that doesn’t mean you can’t make time for Bridge Gardens. Come enjoy the warming sunlight and longer days. Watch spring unfold. I’ve noticed snowdrops, witch hazel, Lindera, crocus, winter jasmine, early daffodils and hellebores. All are in bloom or will be shortly. It’s a great time for a visit!

See you soon!

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