Now is the Time to Create More Space
Continuously harvest loose greens to encourage additional growth using the so-called “cut and come again” method by removing only individual outer (larger) leaves and leaving the center (smaller) leaves so they can continue to grow. When harvesting chives, cut around the base of the plant, and don’t pull the whole plant to allow more to grow back. Broccoli heads are ready to harvest when they get to be about 4 to 8 inches across. Broccoli leaves are edible and work well as a cooked green.
During the first few weeks of May, plant summer hardy vegetables and watch them grow as the temperature continues to warm up. Avoid common gardening mistakes caused by rushing to put some plants in the ground too early. In particular, delay transplanting or sowing basil outdoors until the daytime temperature is in the 70s and the nighttime temperature is above 50ºF. See the MGNV Season-by-Season Guide to Growing Herbs and VCE’s publication Herb Culture and Use for more information on planting other types of herbs.
Tomatoes also prefer warmer soils and grow best when daytime temperatures range from 70 to 80ºF, and night temperatures range from 60 to 70ºF. Tomato transplants should be planted as deeply as possible, pinching off some of the lower branches to encourage additional roots to form along the buried main stem of the plant. Placing crushed egg shells at the base of the ball root of the tomato plant may prevent calcium deficiency and blossom end rot. For guidance on growing tomatoes see Tomatoes from VCE and the NC State article Tomato Planting Tips. The Tomato Love presentation from VCE/MGNV is an excellent resource for planting tomatoes.
Intercropping refers to growing two or more crops at the same time within the same area to encourage beneficial interactions between the two. Interactions include complementing each plant’s nutritional needs, discouraging some plant pests and providing shade and protection to plants by underplanting one variety (e.g., carrots or greens) next to a taller plant (e.g., tomato or corn). Try to keep cooler weather crops on the north side of a taller plant (e.g., grow spinach under the trellis of a south-facing climbing cucumber plant). For information on intercropping, the University of Tennessee Extension publication on Trap Crops, Intercropping and Companion Planting as well as the Controlling Pests with Plants webpage from the University of Vermont.
Have a regular maintenance schedule for your garden. Regularly inspect your garden. Pull weeds when they first sprout, cut off and pick up dead leaves, and remove plants that look diseased or sick. Dispose of all unwanted items in the garbage, not in a pile in the garden.
If you’re like most gardeners, you may be wishing you had more space to plant. If this is the case, consider container gardening as a way to expand your garden without digging up more yard. Many vegetables grow successfully in containers that can be placed on a garden’s edge, deck or balcony. Containers can vary from clay and plastic pots to milk jugs to empty barrels. A wide variety of fruiting plants (tomatoes and peppers), root plants (carrots and radishes), leafy plants (lettuce and peas), and herbs can be grown in containers. To learn more about container gardening, look see the information on these pages from VCE and Cornell University Cooperative Extension.
These recorded VCE/MGNV classes will be of special interest: