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Planting for a Four Season Harvest, Part 4

Mulch Replaced After Soil Heats Up

Staking tomatoesAs with the peas, the leaf mulch is raked aside before planting and afterwards, when the ground heats up, is raked back again.  This mulch is also necessary over the winter to keep my clay soil from compacting and getting water-logged; it makes early planting possible.  Using mulch year after year also loosens and lightens the soil.

No special preparation for planting may be needed; often I just make a furrow and plant.  But for long-rooted crops in clay soil, better results will be obtained when a two-foot strip along the row is loosed with a spading fork.  This applies particularly to beets, carrots, parsnips --- all your crops, if there's time.  It's not too much work, and the whole garden can be done in a few years by alternating rows --- in any one year I never spade up the entire garden.

Mid-April is also the time for setting out the first-sown tomato seedlings.  Tomatoes are my most important crop; I want 4 months of fresh tomatoes.  The idea --- which I got from Organic Gardening and Farming almost 20 years ago --- set out tomatoes so early in the north, even under protection, at first seemed fantastic.  But it works, and gives an extra month of tomatoes.

I use bottomless glass jugs, hot caps, sometimes plastic tents, and keep them on until Memorial Day when young tomato plants are commonly transplanted into the open garden hereabouts.  Choose an early variety: Moreton Hybrid, Fireball, Geneva, Earliana, Galaxy, Gardener, Queen's Certified, Burpee's Big Early Hybrid, Breck's Early Red.  "Early" means quick-maturing; in some cases, cold-resistant too.

Since seedlings can't usually be bought at this early date and out-of-the-ordinary varieties of seedlings are always hard to obtain, I raise my own.

I set out about a dozen and a half early tomato plants and, after a few weeks, leave the 10 or 12 sturdiest, discarding the rest.  Still another reason for raising my own --- I couldn't be so prodigal with bought plants.

To be continued....

Tirrell, R.  1966, February.  Planting for a 4-Season Harvest.  Organic Gardening and Farming.

Reprinted by permission of Organic Gardening magazine.  Copyright Rodale, Inc., U.S.A.  All rights reserved.

This post is part of our Planting for a Four Season Harvest lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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