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Late Spring in the Garden

Dos and Don’t

     Don’t work your soil too early. Unless both March and February were dry, avoid the temptation to turn over or dig into wet soil. Tilling wet soil can cause it to become cloddy and brick-hard when it dries out. How do you know when your soil can be turned or tilled? One test is to form a clump of soil into a ball. Bounce it up and down in your hand a few times. If it breaks apart easily it’s probably OK to dig.
     Do get compost, and spread it an inch or so deep over your beds. When it’s time to plant seeds or put in transplants, you will automatically incorporate the compost while making holes.
     Don’t step on wet soil.
     Do try to keep off the planting beds as much as possible. Wet soil compacts easily. You’ll have bricks later.
     Don’t plant seeds in wet, cold soil. Peas and potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day, that’s the tradition, right? What if we’ve just had a soaking rain and it’s 40 degrees out? Seeds and tubers are more likely to rot in those conditions than sprout.
     Do get them in the ground during a warmer, drier stretch. Consider using raised beds. Potatoes, onion sets, onion seedlings and peas can be planted as soon as the soil can be lightly worked. That’s when Chinese cabbage, leeks, beets, kale, mustard and turnips can also be planted.
     Don’t put out your seedlings of hardy crops until weather conditions are promising. Cold, they can take, especially with a row cover; hard freezes are going to set them back. Torrential rain and constant wind is also challenging. 
     Do sow beans and corn directly in the soil where soil temperatures are above 50 degrees.
     Do Harden-off transplants one week prior to transplanting to toughen the plants and ready them for outdoor conditions.
     Don’t plant tomato, eggplant or pepper plants or tender annuals like impatiens, marigolds, petunias, salvia, outdoors until after the last frost date.
       Do start seeds for these plants indoors under lights. Continue sowing seeds of spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard and other greens indoors under fluorescent tubes. 
      Do learn your last frost date: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/spring-frostfreeze-dates-maryland.
      This date varies across the state from late April on the lower Eastern Shore to late May in Western Maryland.
 
Home & Garden Information Center horticulturists are available year-round to answer your plant and pest questions. They also cover houseplants, indoor pests and more. Send your questions and photos to Ask an Expert! ­https://marylandgrows.umd.edu