Dirt Girl: Tending your garden

With the intense, endless rain that we had, I didn’t complete planting until just a few weeks ago. Even then it felt like a marathon of pain.

Gardening in the spring can sometimes feel that way. Now that things are in the ground, it’s okay to ease up a bit and admire all the hard work that you’ve done to get to this point.

In these early weeks, be vigilant about weeding. This is the time our plants compete for nutrients and water in order to succeed. They battle weeds that seem to thrive no matter the condition, even as we repeatedly cut them back.

If you’re planting something new, you might have trouble identifying what is emerging. Is it what you wanted to grow or are they merely weeds? I find it helpful to use small sticks, rocks, or something else to indicate where I planted the row. This helps me ferret out the weeds. If you didn’t do this, look for plants emerging in some sort of pattern or you can wait until you’re sure.

This year I used seed tape to create straight rows for root vegetables. Members of the carrot family can take two weeks to germinate. Unlike other seeds which have a miniature plant ready to emerge, carrot family seeds have to develop the embryo before it can germinate and grow. Two weeks can seem like a long time and it gives ample opportunities for the weeds to take over an area.

Some people grow radishes as companions when they sow carrots. The sprouting radishes show where the rows are and keep the soil from compacting during watering. Radishes can be harvested before the carrots need the space.

In addition to weeding, make sure to water your garden frequently. When we have those lovely, sunny days when the temperature is in the 70s, water daily. This is especially important for root vegetables like carrots, whose seeds need to be kept moist during germination.

Your potatoes need less tending. Keep piling the soil on top of the growing plant so just the growing tip is exposed. The crucial time for watering this plant is when it begins to flower. At that time, the tiny potatoes begin to grow.

Keep your Brassicas such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbage covered with Reemay or plastic cloth. This prevents the Anthomiidae fly from depositing its eggs on the new plants. Luckily for us, this fly only lives until the end of June. Covering up these plants prevents the fly from infesting the soil, not only harming the plants this year but for years to come.

If you are growing zucchini, keep the temperature as close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit as you can. Planting them in a hill increases the soil warmth. To keep them from drying out, create a little trench around the bottom of the hill. As you water, direct the spray to the underside of the plant to prevent mildew. The water will drain in the trench and keep the area damp a little longer.

Most importantly, enjoy this time when you’ve finished the bulk of the work. Embrace the rain when it comes — watering is one less thing you have to do — and enjoy the sun when it shines.

• Corinne Conlon is a freelance writer based out of Juneau. She can be reached at dirtgirlgardening@gmail.com.

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