Jokes are common place in Wyoming about the paucity of real Spring weather. Songs are sung about when it is spring time in the Rockies and it is 99 below. It can be winter one day and spring the next. This year was no exception.
Around the first of the month there was a patch of beautiful spring weather and then we were hit with unseasonable cold. Still there comes a point we determine it is here and start planting. It is great if you don’t have to till, but, if you have invasive weeds and grasses, tilling helps.
First let me state that there is no safe time to plant. We can have snow any month of the year. Long time gardeners know they may have to protect their plants from frost or snow. I recommend buying a roll of plant covering. You can cut off what you need.
One is called Reemay. It allows 70% of light to come through. It also lets water through and keeps bugs out. Further it protects plants from wind. If applied loosely, plants have room to grow. It holds heat in and keeps plants a few degrees warmer than outside temperatures.
Another benefit of plant coverings is protection from hungry critters. It seems birds not only like seeds, some like seedlings. Voles do too!
Before planting be sure you have your plan. Gardens do best with full sun, but some plants tolerate some shade. Of course, you don’t want taller plants shading smaller and so on.
It is always fun to plant a small raised bed early. It can contain things like lettuce, spinach, and radishes. Always cover this bed with Reemay or at least a night time blanket of some sort to help germinate these seeds.
Onion plants need to go into the garden as soon as possible. You can get them on line. Keep them firmly anchored until they establish new roots. Earthworms and crawlers often dislodge them during their night time forays. Just tuck them back into the ground when that happens.
Remember, onions like lots of water and food. Fish emulsion and alfalfa pellets are great organic choices. Make sure to water pellets well after applying to get them expanding and broken apart before critters come for them.
Garden peas and sweet peas can be planted now. Wafer peat pellets are great for getting them started. Soak the seeds all night before planting them. Put pellets in a water tight pan and water with warm water until fully expanded. Poke a hole for the soaked seed and let them finish germinating in pot. When they get up a couple inches pots can be set in the ground.
Garden peas are a gourmet delight for all sorts of critters. They can be grown in pots set into the ground in a large row. Leave a lip to deter slugs, etc. Larger pots are desirable and several plants can be planted in each one. After planting, put a tomato cage over them.
Reemay can be used around the whole row and pinned in place. It can be left in place all season. Early it protects from critters, frost, wind, etc. Later it helps keep plants cool and extends growing season.
In early May beds of beets, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels Sprouts can be planted. Again, germination and growing conditions can be improved by covering with Reemay. If you have space under lights, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts do best if started inside earlier.
Heat loving plants should not be planted or the plants set out until after the first of June. These include, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn and bean.
It is worth the effort to set up a grow light over a card table to start some of these plants. Of course, you can pick them up from retailers, but you don’t know what chemicals or soil has been used to grow them. One of the main reasons to grow a garden is to avoid chemicals and have organically grown food.
Alternatively, plants can be germinated inside and set outside each day in a protected place. They will need to be brought back in each night until danger of frost is over and they can be planted outside.
Barbara Parsons, a longtime resident of Rawlins, writes a garden column and opinion column for the Rawlins Times.