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COMPLETE HOME GARDENER: Time to mix up a batch of garden lasagna
The end of April is a time of garden abundance as rhodies bloom, fruit trees flower and seeds sprout in an orchestra of spring growth. Celebrate the rapid growth rate by mowing, edging and fertilizing your lawn. A crisply-edged lawn makes up for a field of imperfections.
Continue to plant cool-season crops like lettuce, radish, broccoli, chard and carrots. Buy geraniums, bedding plants and even cold-sensitive coleus this week but don’t set these heat-loving annuals outdoors overnight. There could still be some frosty nights ahead and even a cold but not-quite-freezing night will stunt and damage tender annual plants.
A good way to harden off annual plants you buy this week is to display them in a wheelbarrow or wagon during the day and then wheel them into the warmth and safety of a garage or covered patio at night.
All this rapid spring growth is a reminder that our climate is the perfect place to practice lasagna gardening – successive plantings for layers of flowers and food. Lasagna gardening also means smothering the lawn or weeds by sheet composting, or making layers of mulch to create new soil.
Lasagna Gardening: How to Layer Food, Flowers and Foliage in a Pot or Small Space
Step One: Group and mingle your food and flowers. Pick out either cool-season crops to plant with cool-season flowers or heat-loving veggies like tomatoes and herbs to mix with heat-loving flowers.
Cool-season lasagna recipe for partly-shaded spot
Back of bed: Bountiful Blue dwarf blueberry. For maximum harvest and pollination plant at least two blueberry shrubs
Middle of Bed: Asparagus and cosmos. Both grow tall with feathery foliage in the summer. You can harvest asparagus in the spring, blueberries in the summer and cosmos flowers in the fall.
Edging plant: Red and green leaf lettuce in spring and early summer.
Seasonal changeup: In late summer, after lettuce has been harvested, add onion sets, Swiss chard and winter pansies to the front of this bed. Layer in snowdrop bulbs and black mondo grass to the very edge of the bed for late-winter color.
Heat-Lovers lasagna: Sun-loving layers of planting for maximum color and harvest
Back of bed: Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes – they’re the most dependable but wait until mid May or June to put tomatoes into the cold ground – or stake a taller tomato variety like Early Girl that will ripen in our climate.
Middle of bed: Scarlet runner climbing beans trained on pole teepees for vertical accents, beautiful artichoke plants for even more structure and brightly-colored zinnias and marigolds in front of the beans. Add stepping stones to this planting for easier harvest.
Edging: Plant purple and pink alyssum mixed with Mediterranean herbs and basil plants. Add trailing nasturtiums along edges of bed for an over-flowing look of abundance. Layer in autumn-blooming crocus bulbs to harvest their pollen and use as saffron. For winter color plant Grecian wind flower or anemone bulbs that will naturalize.
Seasonal Changeup: In September replace the basil with garlic cloves, Swiss chard and Onion sets. Uproot the tomatoes and fill in with kale and cabbage.
Ready to grow more? Improve the soil with compost.
Raised beds are the way to go in our climate because the soil dries out sooner in the spring which allows for warmer soil temperatures. The easiest-to-grow vegetables for beginners are summer squash (yes, that means zucchini), cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard and beans.
Tomatoes do well if you have a hot spot up against a brick wall or pots that can sit on a concrete driveway, porch or patio.
More tips for first-time farmers
You can plant seeds of cool season crops like lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard now but don’t plant any cucumbers, squash or beans outdoors until late May or early June.
Choose varieties for our specific climate from local companies such as Ed Hume or Territorial seeds.
Read and follow the instructions on the seed pack. Most beginners plant seeds too deep; press the soil down firmly over the seeds but only plant as deep as recommended on the seed pack.
Protect young plants from slugs and snails, always and all year.
Consider a fence or netting around your new garden because freshly planted soil attracts cats, dogs, birds and kids.
Learn more to know more to grow more: ask advice from neighbors, read, take a class or just keep planting and learn from your mistakes. There are no planting mistakes, simply composting opportunities.