By Jose German
for Montclair Local
Jose German is a New Jersey environmental activist, Essex County certified master gardener and Montclair resident. He is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition, a nonprofit environmental organization.
Spring is around the corner, but don’t rush to plant things without checking first when the last frost of the season is due. The weather is still cool and the soil too damp for many vegetables. Clean your beds if you did not do it in the fall. Fertilize your soil with compost, and cover the beds with straw or salt hay to reduce the propagation of weeds.
Now, let’s explore the possibilities vegetables for early planting. Lettuce, arugula and sugar snap peas are the most suitable veggies for planting at the beginning of the spring. It is also a good time to divide your strawberries or buy new plants. If you missed planting garlic last fall, you can also plant it for a later summer harvest. It helps to cover your beds with a fabric to protect the plants from unexpected frost and cold wind. I highly recommend to cover your beds with nets since hungry garden predators will be around.
Bulbs will be in bloom soon. Crocuses are up already and some daffodils are peeking out and will bloom within days. There is nothing that you can do with them now since they must be planted in the fall. Early native bloomers include violets, golden Alexanders, columbine and creeping phlox (my favorite spring plant for its color and exquisite fragrance). Violets are under appreciated, but they have great value as the host plant for the fritillary butterflies.
Another important host plant for butterflies is golden Alexander, a host for black swallowtail butterflies.
PLANNING AHEAD: THE NEXT GENERATION
By mid-April, you will be able to plant the second generations of veggies in your garden, like kale, broccoli, collard greens and cabbage. It is also good time for potatoes and carrots. Make your selection of ornamental plants for May and June. It is safe to plant anything during the first week of May. Spring will have sprung!