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As spring weather flirts with Boston, let's talk about your garden

Tristram Keefe, the farm enterprise manager at Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, places a tag into a tray of Black Cherry tomato seedlings. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Tristram Keefe, the farm enterprise manager at Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, places a tag into a tray of Black Cherry tomato seedlings. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This interview excerpt was included in WBUR's Saturday morning newsletter, The Weekender. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

Spring is on its way, and for many that means gardening. But where to start? Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned gardener, Radio Boston is here to answer your questions about what to plant this spring.

And along to provide sage advice is Patrick Parent, a product line manager at Mahoney’s Garden Centers and host of the Paul Parent Garden Club.

Below are highlights from their conversation, which have been lightly edited.

On whether now is the right time to start gardening:

"So it is, but not outside yet. The gardening can actually be started by seed in the house. A lot of your vegetables that you were going to put outside are actually close to two months away from really going outside — like your tomatoes, your peppers, those types of things. We're waiting for the last frost of the season. [And] the last frost of the season is usually May 20.

"It's pretty crazy. The more north you go in the state, the later it is. You go on to the Cape, it's probably a week to ten days prior. But that doesn't mean don't start."

On what kinds of vegetables a gardening-newbie with limited space should start with:

"Well, first off, I would say don't go crazy and try to do all the hybrids and crazy varieties. Go for some of the simple. If we start going right away to those hybrids and we fail, we're not going to want to continue. So, what we're looking at: You start really a lot with herbs. You can do peppers indoors.

"If you want to do tomatoes, go with the smaller varieties like the Sweet 100s — those real small ones — because you're going to get such a harvest out of them, you're going to feel so much better at the end when you're like, 'Wow, I was so successful.'

"You can even put in some different like squashes and cucumbers. You know, cucumbers in a container. If you grow a cucumber in a garden, you're putting a trellis or a fence or whatnot. You could buy a container, put a tomato cage in it, let those cucumbers grow up the side and all around and create a very vertical space for those where you're going to get the same amount as if you would do it outside. I mean, that right there is one thing that I would suggest doing."

On tips for growing tomatoes:

"So, getting the right soil and making sure you use a fertilizer that has calcium in it. Calcium helps with the production of the tomato and then at the same time thinning out the leaves on the bottom during the warm months. So the humidity doesn't cause any fungus or anything along those lines. That right there is going to take you to the next level."

Ways to keep rabbits away from your garden:

"You know, I've looked and looked for many years of what would do the best. And I have found by far there's a product called 'Rabbit Scram.'

It's natural, it's dried [pig] blood. And that blood, what it does is it shows fear to that rabbit. And we have a couple of people who come into the nursery all the time, and they actually buy a 25-pound bucket of it because they just watch the rabbits come to the area, turn around and run the opposite way."

On the most natural, environmentally sound ways to feed your plants, inside or out:

"Taking a look at the package and seeing what terms are actually on the bag, because I've been doing a lot of research on this. And if the bag actually says 100% organic, it's actually 100% organic. If the bag only says organic. The realization is it's actually only 95% organic."

This segment aired on March 28, 2023.


Tiziana Dearing Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.


Bart Tocci Freelance Producer, Radio Boston
Bart Tocci is a freelance producer for Radio Boston.



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