HELPING THE EARTH AND OTHER APRIL GARDENING TIPS
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Helping our planet through Earth Day activities, starting seedlings, and sowing early crops outside are some of the gardening activities for this month.
Nearly 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day
on April 22, 1970 by picking up litter, collecting recyclables,
and holding "teach-ins" to talk about the environment. It was
started by Gaylord Nelson, a 53-year-old Wisconsin senator, as a
way of bringing attention to how people's actions were endangering
the planet. This widespread concern by citizens about what was
happening to the earth inspired the Congress to pass the Clean Air
Act in the early 1970’s.
Fast forward to 2018, when Earth Day is celebrated on Sunday,
April 22 once again, and concern is even more intense by many on
helping our planet. Since Earth Day Network—the organization
promoting and coordinating events and efforts globally—began
promoting “A Billion Acts of Green”, it has recorded over 2.6
billion and is aiming for 3 billion. These acts could be as
simple as eating less meat (which creates lots of greenhouse gas
emissions during production and distribution), using reusable not
plastic shopping bags, or planting a tree.
Other ways that you, as a gardener, can make every day an Earth
Day are to minimize your use of chemical fertilizers and
pesticides to protect the soil. You can water with a drip
irrigation system rather than an overhead sprinkler to conserve
water. Switch to electric garden tools like trimmers and blowers
(many have quite long-lasting batteries now). Reduce mowing by
leaving large areas not used for recreation unmown, except once or
twice a season, and replace other seldom-used or shady lawn areas
Make sure that you are all set for the growing season by buying
your onion sets and seeds, mapping out the garden, cleaning and
oiling your tools, and getting your soil tested. In mid- to late
April you can start many transplants. As a rule of thumb, most
annuals and vegetables need to be started six to ten weeks before
it's time to transplant them into the garden. Check the seed
packet for instructions.
If you use peat pots, these can be planted directly in the
garden, as the pots will decompose. Or plant in flats, using a
soil-less mix containing peat, perlite, vermiculite, and a small
dose of fertilizer. If you use a compost-based mix, make sure it
is for seed germination. Moisten the soil before planting seeds
but avoid overwatering, which may cause seeds and seedlings to
The first crops that can be sown in the ground once the soil has
dried out enough are beets, carrots, lettuce, parsley, peas,
radishes, spinach, and Swiss chard. Plan to make successive
sowings every couple of weeks to prolong the harvest. The end of
the month or early May you can plant asparagus and onions from
small plants, roots or “onion sets” (aka bulbs) that you buy.
Peas like cool temperatures, but avoid wet spots with poor
drainage as this will cause the seeds to rot. If powdery mildew
has been a problem, select varieties resistant to this fungal
disease. For variety, plant both traditional shelling peas and
snow, or snap, peas with edible pods. Determine if you want bush
varieties, or vining ones that will need some means of support.
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