After a slow and chilly start, we are excited for spring to appear in Ohio and it is luring the whole family outdoors to tackle spring chores around the farm. We are a homeschooling family so I consider many of our outdoor tasks as part of our learning experience and no one objects to abandoning books for a few hours to spend time in the sunshine. The teen boys are in charge of pruning fruit trees, our 10-year-old son is helping start seedlings and everyone pitches in to get the garden rolling.
Early in the season, the garden soil is dry enough to start planting but not quite dry enough for the tractor and disk to go over the large garden. So our earliest garden area is worked up by hand using a broad fork. The broad fork loosens and aerates the soil without disturbing all the microbial colonies and we work up enough ground to plant the first peas, radishes, onions, kale and lettuce. It is definitely a work out – who needs a gym when you have a broad fork?
The first peas we plant are an early sugar snap variety that we enjoy eating as garden snacks, shell and all. After the main garden is disked, we will plant a larger batch of shell peas, snow peas and an experiment for this year, purple podded peas. We plant all of our peas in double rows and once they emerge, we’ll add a fence for them to climb on which makes for a neater garden and much easier picking. The shorter shell peas get a 2 foot fence and the climbing sugar snaps and snow peas get a 4 foot fence.
April is also a good month to finish up pruning fruit trees, trimming back grape vines and cutting back tree branches gone astray. Though it would probably be more ideal to do this in the fall, I am also moving some blackberry plants, a currant bush plus snow peach seedlings that need relocated. We will need to water them frequently to get them settled into their new spots, but we are happy to keep increasing our homegrown fruit options by multiplying our own stock. There is such an energizing feeling that comes from clearing away dead growth, straightening up garden areas, creating new beds and doing it out in fresh air and sunshine. However, after not using some of the muscles and motions of outdoor work for several months, we do feel the soreness as we get our bodies back into garden shape.
Meanwhile indoors, we are busy planting things to be ready to go in the ground in mid-May after danger of frost. Rolling newspaper pots is an excellent kid job and we fill them with seed starting mix to start cucumbers, squash and melons plus to bump up tomato seedlings needing more space. These are all heat-loving plants, so I give them a warm place to germinate and then move them to a window or plant light once they have appeared. When it is time to put things outdoors, we plant the whole pot in the ground and it will disintegrate without disturbing the plant roots.
Another hopeful sign of spring are all the emerging blooms. Daffodils are finally coming in their cheerful glory, making their way into table vases and mini bouquets to share with others. The helebores are opening along with the first grape hyacinths and the greenhouse tulips are ready to be picked. Nearly everyday, I hear, “Mama, mama, come see what is blooming!” and am thankful for all the bulbs we’ve planted over the years. If you don’t have the joy of watching spring bulbs open on your property, mark your calendar to plant some in the fall. We are also gathering some of the apple tree prunings and putting the branches in water with the hope of having more spring blooms to enjoy indoors and anticipating having them in full glory for Easter Sunday.
What is growing and blooming at your place?
Karen Geiser is a regular demonstrator and homesteading class teacher at Lehman’s. Her daughter, Elizabeth, also works at Lehman’s. Photos by Elizabeth Geiser ©2019.