Gardeners Start Your Engines – It’s Time

Gardeners start your engines. It’s time to get a head start on your summer garden. Planting zucchini indoors, a month before the last frost, allows me to begin harvesting around Father’s day. I also start cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew melons indoors, on a seed starting heated mat, to get a month head start on Mother Nature. After they get transplanted out I will direct seed more into the remaining hills. This ensures that not all your melons will ripen at the same time. I’ve also gotten a third planting in, but we tend to get “meloned out”. I will also start some cucumbers, but I don’t start any winter squash. Since you won’t be harvesting them until after the first frost there’s no sense in jumping the gun.

If you’ve got boards lying around in your garden this is a good time of year to flip them over to see how many mating pair of slugs you can find. Every slug you kill now will be 50 less slugs you have to deal with in a month. They can smell your melon transplants from two feet away and can girdle them in an evening. The plants grow fine hairs along their stems to help prevent the slugs from climbing up, but it takes awhile. The hairs eventually turn into bristles, as you know, if you’ve ever picked cucumbers. The cucumbers laying on the ground will be etched with chewed lines from slugs eating their skin off, but the leaves will be untouched. The slugs can’t navigate the stems that have bristles tough enough to scratch you.

I can’t believe how aggressive the birds are this year with the bird netting. They are breaking the sticks I use to hold it to the ground. The sticks are only dried hollyhock stems, but they’ve never repeatedly pulled on the netting to break them. Maybe I’ve trained them. I didn’t have this problem when I was using fist size rocks to hold the netting down, so I may have to return to that practice. I’m looking forward to the return of the blackbirds that will chase away the plant eating sparrows. The blackbirds make their nests as close to the ground as three feet, in artichoke, juniper and blackberry bushes and work in pairs to build the nest and feed the young. They do not tolerate other birds near their nests and they don’t eat plants so when they show up I can take the bird netting off. My garden journal indicates this will be sometime after April 18th, but it will be interesting to see if they arrive early.

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