A “PATH” to a Great Garden

Remember four words:

Patience —Activity—Tolerance—Harvest

These four steps will help prepare YOU and your garden for a spectacular show and harvest this year.

The timeline for PATH (patience-activity-tolerance-harvest) is primarily March through July 4th (the harvest part goes until the snow flies again)

Step one: Patience

And to help deal with the patience you need to try some planning and preparation. This step is usually in March to mid April (full moon)

Let me explain: After winter is finally letting go, we tend to get what I call “green fever”, not to be confused with spring fever. Green fever is when we need to DO something ~ besides smell the earth and feel the soil. We get the urge to be actively involved in helping Mother Nature along. And if we get carried away by the first call of the spring peepers, we can do more harm than good to our gardens and the beneficial insects hibernating.

SO . . . walk around the garden with a pair of clippers and cut a few branches to force into flower inside. As you walk around the garden, make PLANS, but leave the rake and shovel in the shed. Don’t pull away the leaf litter yet. I know this is VERY hard.

Check out the compost pile (everyone should have a compost pile).

Start a few seeds inside. If it’s too early for garden crops, try starting some microgreens. (https://www.neseed.com/grow-microgreens)

Visiting one of the flower shows (well, that may not be such a good idea. It might get you too ‘feverish’)

You can do a few chores this time of season: Prune fruit trees (and use dormant oil if you need too) Remove dead or broken branches from shrubs and perennials (like the ones we forgot to protect from heavy snow).

The Planning for a Veggie Garden:

  • Choose a location: Veggies Need Sun! Full sun is a minimum of 6 hours of direct, continuous sunlight. For most veggies, the more sun the better. Know the exceptions.
  • Pot? Raised Beds? Small Garden? The Back 40? Think Smaller! – Check out Square Foot Gardening or Container Gardening
  • Choose varieties: Get recommendations from family, friends, neighbors or the local farm market. Read the reviews Read the ‘How-To’ for individual veggies and herbs What to plant by seed, what to transplant? Add edible flowers too.
  • Find good plant pest and disease ID’s. Keep them handy
  • Check out a few gardening books and magazines
  • DREAM!

WALK, STRECH, BEND, and TAKE DEEP BREATHS – you need to prepare yourself too for the next step. If there is snow on the ground, design out a new garden in the middle of the front lawn and take a few pictures. OK maybe plant A FEW pansies, colored lettuces and shelling peas….

Step 2: Activity

This is the most physical stage and goes through 4 stages itself.

Prune – Prep – Plant – Prevent (OK, maybe ‘Activity’ is really more P’s)

This step is usually from mid-April until July 4th.

Prune for shape (both plants and us) Avoid spring flowering perennial and shrubs Prune roses when forsythia blooms
Prep the Soil
Soil test – different areas of the garden
Test the Soil for Moisture (after full moon)
Till (or not to till)
Amend the Soil (feed the soil – not the plant)

First fertilizer
ORGANICS/SLOW RELEASE– top dress – lime

Compost, Espoma, Plant Health Care, Coast of Maine, and many more Others – “blue juice”, manures, mushroom compost, Miloganite


N – lower (encourages green growth & photosynthesis)
P – boosts ability to absorb nutrients (encourages root growth & strength)
K – improves hardiness and quality of flowers & fruit


Micro-nutrients and protection

Planting at different times (early – frost free – late) https://www.neseed.com/successful-seed-starting-what-to-plant-and-when
Harden off (know your plants – basil can NOT be hardened off)
Divide perennials (avoid early bloomers)
“Frost Free” dates – full moon in May (see https://www.neseed.com/the-fuss-about-frost-dates

Plant the New England Way:

Know the SOIL temperature, not just the air temperature! https://www.neseed.com/seed-sowing-by-soil-temperature
Harden off plant – allow to dry out for a few days, plus exposure

Planting day – best if overcast (or late in day)
Soak plant
Water the HOLE (if poor drainage – bigger hole & add rocks)
Water hole again, add compost, fertilizer
NOW plant in the MUD

Jury is out on whether to disturb roots or not. (Annual vs. perennial)

When to fertilize
First planting
First flowering
50/50 flower and fruit
late season (no N) for perennials

Yes – Again

Prevent Problems

Protect tender plants from sun/wind/frost Row covers, wind breaks, KELP (yet again)

Add Supports at planting ~ don’t wait

Guard against Pests and Disease rather than dealing with them when they show up.

Companion plant (ex: beans & summer savory)
Grubs – beneficial nematodes
Beetles – Neem
Caterpillars – BT
Slugs – DE, copper
Flying pests – floating row covers or potassium salts (insecticidal soap)
Birds – nets
Voles – shale/shells (or a good cat)
Mildew – Baking Soda with horticultural oil
Other Diseases – get a good ID – watch your neighbor’s gardens

WEED CLEAN until July – use a hoe to turn over hidden weed seeds

MULCH – preserve moisture and control weeds – 2” max

  • Bark (course looking, can rob N)
  • Fine mulch (cocoa vs. buckwheat – light weight, can blow around)
  • Straw (can look messy & encourage slugs, adds nutrients)
  • Stone/Crushed shell (semi-permanent, good for perennial beds that need lime)
  • Living mulch (clover/thyme)
  • Corn Glutton vs. Preen (preemergents)


  • Soaker hoses, drip systems, terra sorb
  • Timers

Step 3: Tolerance

Begins after the 4th of July, and is the hardest step to follow

You’ve spent the last 4 months planning, pruning, planting and preventing problems. . . .


One of the things I failed to mention – lazy gardener syndrome (it’s ok!)

For most of us gardening is a passion. An escape from other stresses in our lives. It gives us peace but if it becomes constant work, it is no longer enjoyable.

Because my livelihood is also based around the garden, I have come to realize how important it is to allow nature to take its course through the summer months. Enjoy the garden, don’t fuss. Any chores should be light, easy, and something you want to do, not feel you have to do. Learn to tolerate a few aphids or weeds. Each walk into the garden will be enjoyable. Think of Weeding after the 4th of July as just a reason to carry a glass of Wine into the garden.

Walk slowly, take a deep breath . . . and be thankful . . . that you did all that work in the spring!

Step 4: Harvest

‘Old Wives Wisdom’ – harvest early in the morning after the dew has dried – great for veggies and flowers. Not so great for herbs. For herbs, the essential oils are at their height in the late afternoon.

In reality we harvest when we need the edible.

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