E-newsletter from Mark and Ben Cullen
Our first food gardening newsletter of the season.   We hope this helps you enjoy your best food crop ever.
START FROM THE START

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe
 
It is as tempting to look at finished products and think of shortcuts as it is to jump to conclusions. We are both guilty of this when it comes to carpentry and home repair projects, where too often we are sent back to square one when things don't work out as planned. Or rather, they don't work out for lack of plans.

Neither of us can plead ignorance on this one because if the garden has taught us anything, it's that you must "start from the start" if you want to accomplish the best possible outcome.

In April, the "start" is perfectly clear - starting seeds.

Many of you likely began seed starting back in March, but not all of them! 
Planting in succession will give you a steadier harvest so that you aren't overwhelmed with an entire season's worth of tomatoes in one or two weeks.

We like to stagger our tomato, pepper, cucumber, squash etc by about 2 weeks.

Remember that a quality seed starting mix, with 25% compost or 10% worm castings, is the best way to ensure vigorous transplants. 

A heat mat will help jump-start germination, and once you see green make sure you have enough light available (artificial or a bright window) to avoid "leggy" transplants which have been forced to reach for light.

Now is a good time to start hardening off the seedlings you started back in March. Mark has a series of coldframes against the south side of his barn and potting shed, and Ben uses a "heat tunnel" of plastic over soil and a mini greenhouse on his porch.


Remember to ventilate coldframes, greenhouses and cloches during the warmer days and close them up again before night. This will prevent the build up of fungal diseases in a persistently damp atmosphere.

Direct-sowing cold tolerant crops such as beets, broccoli, salad mixes (including choy and kale), peas, potatoes, leeks and carrots can also start now (weather depending). 

This is by far our favourite way to grow veggies, because it avoids the costs of seed starting supplies or buying transplants later in the season. You can expect to save about 90% by direct-sowing rather than buying transplants.

Asparagus, one of our favourite perennial crops can also be planted now. To establish asparagus, the best thing to do is start with "crowns" (1-year-old plants) planted 12-inches apart, 2-inches into well drained soil with a generous amount of compost. Being dioecious, there are male and female asparagus plants. 
The females produce red berries in the fall which contain seeds that can produce new crowns, and the males do not. The male plants do not expend energy producing seeds, they are generally more productive as a harvest crop. 

It might take you 2-3 years to get a really great crop - you're starting from the start here, after all - but you will reap the benefits of harvest for up to 20 years or more.

If you intend to plant sweet corn later in the month, remember that more short rows will pollinate better than a couple long rows.

Mulch your garlic now that it is poking through the soil. We tend to plant the garlic into bare soil in the fall, and mulch around it once it's about 2-3 inches high. Leaving the dark soil bare will warm up sooner and adding mulch now will insulate it as the early spring temperatures continue to fluctuate and before weeds can germinate through the row.
 
Having taken these steps you will have a tremendous head start over your neighbours and friends, and by June there will be no catching up for them.

There's nothing like getting a great start.
MARK'S CHOICE PRODUCT OF THE MONTH
Row Cover Kit


We recommend this row cover kit to create a greenhouse effect for early planting of vegetables or flowers.  The kit includes 5 poly frames and a 5 feet wide x 12 feet long white spun polyester blanket.
 
The white fabric that you stretch over young seedlings in your garden filters rain water, protects seedlings from frost and wind damage, allows the sun to filter in and prevents a wide variety of insects from finding your valuable product at a young and tender age.   The kit includes sturdy plastic frames to hold the fabric above the foliage of the seedlings.

Exclusive to Home Hardware.

WHERE TO FIND MARK AND BEN

April 26 and 27 - Peterborough Garden Show.  
Ben will speak Friday evening at 6:00pm. Mark will speak Saturday at 10:30am followed by a book signing.


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May 4 - Oshawa East Home Hardware - Grand Opening Celebration.  Join Mark 11am to 1pm. He will be sharing his Recipe for the Best Lawn on the Block followed by a book signing.

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