Originally published in Between the Rows
There is much to do at the OVG in April. As in March, we will continue preparing beds to plant spring crops by cutting down cover crops and thorough weeding. We’ll focus on beds that we will use for planting in April. We will spread cuttings of cover crops over the beds to dry for a week or so and then fork them into the soil. The nutrients they provide will nurture our seedlings and transplants.
As MGNV volunteers work in the beds, they make sure to avoid directly stepping on the soil by using stepping stones or wood to distribute their weight. Stepping directly on the soil compacts it and makes it difficult to work. This is especially a problem in the spring when the soil is quite moist.
April is a fickle month. Sometimes it’s wet and chilly, and other years it’s hot and dry. What will this April bring? Regardless, cool nights in April mean OVG gardeners will continue direct sowing of leafy greens such as lettuce, tatsoi, and kale and other fast-growing cool weather crops such as arugula, swiss chard, spinach, mustard, beets, carrots, and radish.
We recommend planting tatsoi in the home garden. An Asian green, it’s easy to grow and extremely tasty in salads. It’s also quite attractive – it is low lying with lovely rosette shaped leaves. Try planting tatsoi with your next batch of lettuce.
Next on the list, we will be directly sowing turnips, collards, parsley, and cilantro. Turnips were grown extensively in Arlington during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We plant a traditional American turnip, Purple Top White Globe, and have had excellent results. Turnips are wonderful roasted or uncooked in crudités. Lebanese Taverna, a local restaurant, pickles turnips with vinegar and sliced beets for an addictive treat.
Thinning seedlings is an important task at the OVG. Seedlings that grow too close together will not have room to spread out and thrive, but instead will compete for limited space. Read your seed packets and be sure to thin to recommended spacing. You’ll thank yourself later. While tending to seedlings, OVG volunteers make sure they are getting enough water. Seedlings are very tender and can easily be damaged if they become too dry.
In April, we will harvest many of our cool weather crops. We usually have plentiful kale, lettuce, and arugula. In the past, we have donated our crops to AFAC, a local food bank. During COVID, AFAC stopped taking donations, and we began giving our produce to Rock Spring Church’s Victory Garden Project, which distributes fresh vegetables to the needy in Arlington. If you have extra crops this growing season, please consider donating them to the Victory Garden Project.
See you in the garden!
Visit the Organic Vegetable Garden!
One of the best ways to learn about vegetable gardening is to see long established gardens in action. Make time this year to visit the Organic Vegetable Garden in north Arlington at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, one of the seven demonstration gardens operated by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.