To prepare your bed for spring planting, first warm the soil by covering your raised beds with dark plastic (garbage bags cut open, punch holes in it to let some water through) as soon as they are accessible from under the snow. The earliest planting date for cool weather crops is May 1st, 2 – 3 weeks before, strip off the plastic, add a layer of compost/composted manure and turn under last year’s clover cover crop and put the plastic back on to further warm the soil. The warmer your soil is, the more quickly your seeds will germinate and the more quickly your crops will grow. Most vegetables fit neatly into 4 spacing categories • 16/sq ft or 3” apart: Radish, carrot • 9/sq ft or 4” apart: Beets, turnips, spinach, beans, peas, bok choy • 4/sq ft or 6” apart: Lettuce, kale, chard, escarole, and most greens (mustards, collards etc.) • 1/sq ft or 12” apart: Cabbage, broccoli, pepper, eggplant, tomato, melon The only ones that don’t are squash (summer and winter) 4 square feet per plant cucumber 2/sq ft The planting depth is 3 times the seed width, so ¼” for small seeds like pepper or tomato, ¾” for larger seeds like radish or pea or on the surface of the soil for tiny seeds like lettuce or carrot. Ideally you would even place your seed on the top of the soil and cover with worm castings to an appropriate depth. • Your planting season starts with your cool weather crops: Kale, chard, beets, radishes, peas, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, spinach among others. On the 1st of May – 3 weeks before the last frost date for Montreal – plant your seeds according to your garden plan. • Your next planting is on May 22nd for cucumbers, beans, • Warm weather crops: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, appreciate another week of warming, and these seedlings should go into the garden June 1st. • Kale, chard and peas will keep producing all summer, but in mid-to-late July you can get a fall crop started of your other cool weather vegetables. Broccoli and cabbage need to have been started earlier as seedlings. Once all of your plants are in, plant clover again between vegetables as a living mulch to keep in moisture, suppress weeds and provide food and habitat for your beneficial insects. This is known as undercropping or a type of companion planting. As part of your soil fertility maintenance, you should cut down your clover mulch to a couple of inches above the soil and leave the tops to decompose on the surface of the soil. This will give your soil microbes something to munch on, keep your ecosystem strong, and keep the clover from going to seed and spreading all over your yard. It is important to give your vegetables this head start so that the clover doesn’t shade out your sprouting seeds. An ideal planting date for the clover is June 7th – 2 weeks after your last planting from seeds as your June 1st planting of established seedlings.