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Early Spring To-Do List (March + April 2020)

After a long winter where most of the homestead skills happened inside (mostly in the kitchen), we’ve been eagerly anticipating the lengthening days and the return of the sunshine to our valley. Now that we can expect most days to at least hit the 40’s or 50’s in temperature, we’re raring to go on our outdoor to-do list for the year.

Here are our plans for early spring (from now until the end of April):

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  • Finish constructing bean/pea trellises between garden beds
    • We bought 4 cattle panels for this, which we’re arching and nailing into place between our two rows of garden beds. I’ll do a separate post on this later, but this is a project that’s turned out even better (and easier!) than we thought it would.
  • Build two more raised garden beds for dahlias
    • Our side yard has a lot of space that’s being underutilized, so we’re building two more raised garden beds against the fence to try out some of our backyard flower farm ideas this year.
  • Put a layer of compost over all garden beds
    • We’ve had varying success with loads we’ve picked up from the local dump, so this year we might have to splurge and get something that’s a little more guaranteed (since the load we picked up last year must have had other bits of trash mixed in, as it was too “hot” for many plants to grow in for a long time).
  • Purchase second grow light
    • We’d tried growing seeds indoors in the past, and it was largely a colossal failure—all of our seedlings got very leggy, we didn’t water them enough while trying to harden them off outside, and only two marigold plants survived out of about 96 that we grew. We learned that the legginess was due to lack of light, so we bought an inexpensive grow light from Amazon (similar to this one) this year, but we’re quickly seeing that we’ll need at least one more to adequately cover all the seedlings. Jury is still out on whether we’re going to splurge and get a nicer grow light that covers more area (and more evenly), or if we’re just going to pick up one of the same for now.
  • Plant hardy spring seedlings outside (peas, sweet peas, broccoli, spinach, lettuce)
    • We’ve started hardening off our peas and sweet peas this week, and next week we’ll do the same with the others. The plan is to get them all out in the ground before the end of March.
  • Plant second wave of indoor seeds (more tender annuals, including zinnias, cosmos, lavender and other herbs, squash, etc.)
    • Once we’ve cleared our seed trays of all the early vegetables and flowers we planted, they’ll be ready to be washed and replanted with the next wave of seeds, which will be our last set of indoor planting this year (as we’ll just start to direct sow outside after that point, in mid-May or so).
  • Obtain scions from local apple orchard and graft onto the two wild apple trees in the side yard
    • Before we moved in, we’re told our backyard once had 4 apple trees, which were all chopped down by previous owners. However, two of the offshoots from those trees were allowed to grow up again by the previous tenants, but the apples are a wild Red Delicious variety and no good. Last year, we attempted our first grafting experiment and only two scions survived out of 24. This year we’re determined to have another go, and since we know a few of our key mistakes from last year (namely, not cutting down the scions above the second bud or so upon grafting), we’re hoping for more success this year.
  • Weed
    • And it starts…the war against the weeds…
  • Fix side door on chicken coop
    • When my husband finished building our chicken coop, all doors and windows were working just beautifully. However, with the drastic fluctuations in temperatures here, the wood has warped and changed over the past year, and our side door into the roosting area no longer shuts properly. Time to sand the sides down and try again.
  • Ready the chicken coop for the introduction of the new chicks
    • We got 6 new chicks this year (two each of Olive Eggers, Legbars, and Dark Copper Marans) at the beginning of March, and we’re hoping the chicks can start to be put outside with the other hens from last year in May. However, we’ve heard that it’s best to provide a separate enclosure that just the newbies can enter into for awhile, so we need to set up our coop for that.
  • Finalize plans for garden beds
    • Once the two extra garden beds are constructed, we’ll have six raised garden beds—three for vegetables, three for flowers. We also have a lot of other spaces around the house that could also be used to grow, and as we’re experimenting this year with growing flowers for cutting, we’ll need every square inch we can manage. In years past, we haven’t worried so much about maximizing our beds, but this year we’re really going to be looking more into that. We’re considering following the square foot gardening method for the vegetables, and using Floret Farm’s guidelines of 9″ x 9″ for our flower beds. Thoughts?

That should be enough to keep us busy for awhile! I’ll make sure to post an update in late April or early May on how we’ve done at getting all this done.

2 Comments on “Early Spring To-Do List (March + April 2020)

  1. I am so impressed by all the projects you’ve undertaken and all of the gardening you do! Gardening and planting is so intimidating to me! What’s the benefit of raised garden beds vs. planting in the ground?

    1. Well, because we learned of the move soon after this, there was a lot on this list that DIDN’T get done, like building more raised beds. Hopefully in our next place! Raised beds have a few advantages—the main one is that you can control the soil. At this house, our soil is extremely poor and rocky, and it would be extremely difficult to amend it just because of all the rocks. The other main benefit to raised beds is that they’re easier to access and work on—you don’t really have to bend over as much, and you can easily reach anything in the bed, unlike with some deeper garden plots.

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