Gardening April 2023

by Jane Ahrens

From Mélie’s Garden

Once you turn the calendar page to April, it is time to seriously think about starting the gardening year. Last week there was a very interesting article by garden writer Margaret Roach in the New York Times about a “no dig method” for your vegetable garden. She had interviewed gardener Charles Dowding from Somerset in South West England.

Mr. Dowding has been growing vegetables for many years and said that in the late spring he “just tickles the vegetable garden surface rather than tilling it in order not to disturb any weeds that might be germinating”. He points out that “in nature, leaves and other plant parts wither, drop and decay to support the soil without any churning”. He likes to leave the soil alone as much as possible and prepares his vegetable beds in the fall topping them with well-aged compost of about 4 inches. In the spring, he adds an additional 1 to 2 inches before planting. Once the bed is established, he won’t need to add as much as 4 inches of soil in the fall. Dowding also doesn’t believe in rotating crops each year. His recent book No Dig: Nurture Your Soil to Grow Better Vegetables with Low Effort is available on Amazon and I am sure it would be interesting to read for further advice.

Images from Mr. Dowding’s book
‘No Dig: Nurture Your Soil to Grow Better Vegetables with Low Effort’

For those of us, who have not started Mr. Dowding’s method of building up well-composted soil, it is probably still good to rotate crops by not growing plants in the same space each year. I move my tomato plants and squash around the garden, as well as other crops that take different nutrients out of the soil.

There are certain groups of plants that like to grow together and can be moved around the garden each season in groups.

Crops that like to grow together:

Tomato & Basil
Beans & Potato
Broccoli & Rosemary
Spinach & Peppers
Cucumber & Corn
Carrot & Onion
Lettuce & Radish
Peas & Turnips

Cabbage & Dill
Beets & Mint
Eggplant & Marigold
Zucchini & Nasturtium
Asparagus & Parsley
Summer Squash & Borage
Pumpkins & Sunflowers
Brussels Sprouts & Thyme

And Marigolds planted all over the garden keep all kinds of pests away!

This spring I will try Dowding’s suggestion and put down four inches of new composted topsoil. And before I plant, I won’t till up the soil as I usually have done before I plant. It will be interesting to see if fewer weeds germinate without the tilling. The soil temperature should be 50 to 60 degrees for seeds to germinate and plants to be happy, so a soil thermometer is good to own when first planting in the late spring. They can be bought in a garden center or on Amazon.

Let’s hope we all have a very productive gardening year with some of Mr. Dowding’s advice!

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay. Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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