10 Weeks of Vegetable Gardening: Week 10

by - April 01, 2011

Each Friday I am posting a weekly guide for prepping your home vegetable garden. In Raleigh, the last killing frost date is April 11 (on average, give or take a week), so my first weekend for planting (summer crops) outdoors is April 9.

It's April! It's April! One week to go before outdoor planting. 

Check the weather and make sure there is no frost predicted, and if not, begin to harden off your plants. Because mine are in a cold frame (or a hot box - mini green house), hardening off involves leaving the cover open during the day and closed at night for several nights before planting. If your seedlings are indoors, set them outdoors during the day in an area that gets filtered light so that the leaves don't get burned by the sun. Bring them in at night for several days so they don't get shocked by the cooler temperatures.

Something I have not yet done but will do this weekend is mulch the garden beds. You will save yourself much time weeding if you mulch. The best part about mulching is water conservation. Mulch helps prevent evaporation from the soil surface. Because it slows weed growth, you don't have extra roots competing for the soil's water either. Last year I did two patches of okra, and one was mulched and the other wasn't. The patch that wasn't mulched grew infested with wire grass and wilted every day as sun heated it up, the other didn't wilt. While it still had a little trouble with the wire grass, it was easier to pull up from the mulch than the soil. 

When possible, mulch before planting so you don't have to work around delicate sprouts and plants. Check your local garden center for their various options - organic, marked for veggie gardens, etc. "Choosing the Right Mulch" from Gardener's Supply Company is a helpful resource for creative and practical solutions.

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