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Del Norte Gardening: Time to get ready for planting

Del Norte Gardening runs monthly. Paul Madeira and Julie Jo Ayer Williams own Ocean Air Farms in Fort Dick.

Ok, this is it. May is the month we’ve been waiting for.

It’s the month we at Ocean Air Farms plant 80 percent of our vegetables for the season. Add the intermittent rain showers and it makes for an exciting and busy month.

Because this is likely the most important column of the year, we’re going to try for a quick crash course this month.  

The trick to planting a vegetable garden in a cool coastal climate is planting early enough to give the plants time to mature, while planting late enough to avoid the cold nights of spring.

We use the date May 15 as a “guide” on when to begin planting stuff outside. We also use the date of June 1 as a “goal” to have finished planting most of the “one time planting” vegetables, like tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions, pumpkins and winter squashes. So, do your best to have your garden prepped and do your planting between those dates.

We are constantly asked about organic fertilizing and amending the soil. If you haven’t gone to the lengths to take a soil test, you’re going to have to take some guesses as to what’s going on down there.

First off, most of the soil in the county comes from the accumulation over a long time of conifer needles building up and degrading.  This guarantees acidity in the soil.

 A 50-pound bag of lime will cover 1,000 square feet and will slowly adjust the pH and bring it closer to neutral, in addition to adding readily available calcium to your garden.

 North Coast Horticulture on the north side of town and Del Cur Supply at the state line both stock it.

If you are gardening in a new spot or an existing (and possibly depleted) garden and you did not grow a big cover crop with lots of legumes over the winter, we recommend adding some nitrogen.  Coast to Coast Hardware usually has bags of composted chicken manure, which is our top choice  

Bagged steer manure works for adding rich humus. Horse manure can work great, but try to spread it as aged as possible, as it can lead to an explosion of new weeds. We also highly recommend using some of the products from Eco Nutrients from Hambro.  We spray fish and kelp directly on the plants during early growth.  It is economical to use and highly effective.

A few more basics are what common vegetables can be seeded directly into the ground and which do better with an established plant started in a greenhouse. Corn, peas, beans, beets, radish, carrots, spinach and various lettuces will succeed planted directly.  Broccoli and family, tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash and cucumbers will do better if given a head start in a greenhouse or nursery.  

Some of our biggest mistakes have been some of the simplest problems.

We advise watering consistently and not too heavily. Water your garden not just to keep it from dying, but to make it thrive. Remember some crops like tomatoes and squash will succumb to disease if watered from above, so keep the water off the plant itself as much as possible.

Keeping the garden free of weeds is critical to good yields, so do yourself a favor and get out there while the weeds are still small.  Go over it again for a second time a few weeks later. That is usually enough to give the plants a strong head start.

Lastly, try not planting your entire space right off the bat.  Save some space to sow later successions of lettuce, radish, broccoli and cilantro to ensure a long supply.

Most of all, enjoy growing something, plant for diversity and you can depend on some things doing great.

The farmers markets start in early June and our farm is in its last month of sign-ups for the CSA programs. Contact us if you’re interested.

Have a question or suggestion? Email it to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it and it may be addressed in a future column.


Del Norte Triplicate:

312 H Street
P.O. Box 277
Crescent City, CA 95531

(707) 464-2141

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