Are you ready? Migrating ruby throated hummingbirds typically make an appearance in the Crossville area around April 1. 

Hummingbirds need food to fuel their migration flight. Having sugar water feeders and potted nectar-producing flowering plants available helps hummingbirds survive when spring gardens have not yet developed enough in-ground nectar sources. 

On an early March weekend, I searched the woods around my house trying to spot the woodpecker who was noisily hammering on one of the trees. 

Springtime “drumming” is a way these birds let competing woodpeckers know they are staking a claim on a nesting territory and trying to attract a mate. 

Redheaded and downy woodpeckers are commonly seen in my neighborhood, but this drummer was a crow-sized pileated woodpecker. That springtime activity reminded me it was time to get the hummingbird feeders out of winter storage and cleaned up. 

Journey North is a citizen science project of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum that engages citizens in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. 

Follow the migratory movement of a number of bird species as well as that of monarch butterflies on maps at the Journey North website. You may add to migration data by reporting your own first spring sightings of species like robins, eagles, red winged blackbirds, etc. at journeynorth.org/. A robust education program is also available to allow teachers to supplement related science lessons.

Vegetable Gardening

The University of Tennessee Extension website, https://www.uthort.com, has links to the online documents 2021 Tennessee Home Fruit and Vegetable Calendar W436 at https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W436.pdf and The Tennessee Vegetable Garden: Garden Planning, Plant Preparation and Planting W346-B at https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W346-B.pdf 

Both are recommended for Cumberland County residents new to growing food at home as well as to those with experience growing ornamentals (flowers, shrubs, trees) and edibles (fruit, herbs, vegetables). 

I am a 26-year resident of this area with an established home vegetable plot who is familiar with the climate around Crossville and find much useful information at UT HORT. 

In February, I explored the “Vegetable Gardens” section at UT HORT seeking early-planted peas with edible pods different than those I had tried before. The document Vegetable Cultivar Suggestions for Tennessee Gardens 2019 version lists vegetables that had been Tennessee tested and found to be good choices for home gardens in our state. 

I selected from that list “Pea-Sugar Ann-early snap pea, AAS” and “Pea-Oregon Sugar Pod II-snow pea,” ordered the seeds online and planted them in March. 

If you plan to grow vegetables and are wondering what varieties grow well in Tennessee use the link https://extension.tennessee.edu/MasterGardener/Documents/Vegetable garden cultivar list-2019.pdf to answer that question. 

The “AAS” in the snap pea entry stands for All-America Selections. This nonprofit organization tests/trials new plants alongside established “comparison” plants in trial garden locations throughout Canada and the United States to find varieties which outperform older industry standards. 

To learn more about AAS winners and the selection process go to https://All-AmericaSelections.org. Other vegetables on the list are labeled “TTP” which indicates that vegetable variety was a Tennessee Top Performer in Home Garden Variety Trials. The home garden variety trials are a citizen scientist project. Learn about this project and 2021 TTPs by selecting the photo on the UT HORT home page labeled “Trial Information and Updates”.     

When establishing a vegetable garden, a location with sufficient sunlight and a water supply is necessary. Vegetables need at least 1 inch of water per week from natural rainfall and watering combined. In hot weather bump that up to between 1.5-2 inches. 

In general, vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sun throughout the growing season. My place is a small, wooded corner lot that is mostly shaded by trees. I had to get creative to find garden spots with enough sun. 

I established a butterfly garden along the road to the south and a little raised bed vegetable plot on the west side near the southwest corner. Due to limited space I grow vegetables using trellises and tomato cages for support so the plants grow up instead of sprawling on the ground. 

One year I experimented by planting herbs and vegetables in containers set on my sunny front walk. My  home vegetable gardens using raised beds and containers proved productive. You can successfully grow vegetables in small spaces, as well.  

The air temperature and that of the ground at about 3 inches below the surface is important to plants direct-seeded or seedlings transplanted in soil during springtime and early summer. 

Our last spring frost is typically May 10. Keep that date in mind when sowing seed or transplanting warm-season crops. Soil temperature impacts germination, which is the sprouting or start of a new plant from seed. 

Soil temperature also affects the growth rate of recent transplants. A soil thermometer can be used to test the temperature of the soil in your home vegetable plot. Seeds for the snow peas and snap peas I grow germinate when the soil temperature is between 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit. After pea plants are up and growing they tolerate frost. However, if at planting time the soil is below 40 degrees F it will be too cold for germination and should the soil remain that cold the pea seeds may to rot in the ground. 

Yellow forsythia blooms are nature’s indication that the springtime soil temperature is good for grass seed germination, between 50-65 degrees F. That means the time is right, the soil is warm enough to sow turfgrass seed. That is also the time for a first application of pre-emergent crabgrass preventer which stops germination of seeds for that weedy-grass.   

Please email questions or comments about this article or suggestions for future article topics to MGardenerRae@frontiernet.net

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