National Gardening Month: Celebrate With these Library Resources and Services
April is National Garden Month. In many parts of the country, spring is just beginning, but here in New Orleans we can already see summer on the horizon. The impending summer heat can make spring gardening a challenge in New Orleans, but with a little planning and preparation, it’s still possible to have a thriving garden that will help feed your family.
Starting April 15, seed libraries at five Library locations will offer a selection of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that grow well in our region. Seed packets include instructions for planting and harvesting. But, if you’re unfamiliar with the lingo, they can take a little work to decipher. Since seeds can be grown in a variety of regions, the packets often give instructions that refer to the date of average last frost.
The typical date of last frost in New Orleans is February 4, so if you live in the city, this is a good date to plug in when deciding when to plant your spring gardens.
All seed libraries will be equipped with a Seed Library Reference Binder packed with information on what to grow in our area and when to start planting. Reference binders include the LSU Ag Center’s Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide, which provides information on recommended planting dates, depth and spacing of seeds, and the average number of days before you can harvest. As the guide promises, here in south Louisiana, we can grow and harvest all year round. It’s just a matter of determining the best crops for your space and how to rotate crops for successful gardening throughout the year.
Reference binders also include monthly planting guides specific to New Orleans.
In April, there are several crops ready for direct sowing (coded DS), which simply means to plant the seeds directly in your garden bed. These include some of our favorite vegetables in Louisiana –– collard greens, beans, and okra, just to name a few. It’s also a great time to plant melons like watermelon and cantaloupe.
If your garden isn’t quite ready for direct sowing yet, check the monthly planting guides for crops that can be seeded in trays before transplanting into a garden bed (look for the codes SI and ST). In April, these include a wide variety of flavorful herbs such as basil, dill, fennel, marjoram, parsley, sage, and thyme — all of which are available for checkout from our seed libraries. If you don’t have seed trays on hand, egg cartons are a great free option for starting your seedlings before they’re ready to plant in your garden.
Other Ways The Library Can Help Make Your Garden A Success:
- Check out a book like The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast or The Louisiana Urban Gardener: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs, for regionally specific growing information and gardening tips.
- Attend a program on pollinator protection at Milton H. Latter Memorial Library on Saturday, April 8 and learn how to make your garden a safe space for pollinators.
The event kicks off at 1 p.m., when master gardener Usha Ramadhyani will explain how you can help bees, butterflies, and other insect pollinators in your garden by protecting them from pesticide use and providing an appropriate habitat.
- Get inspired by reading home and garden magazines on Flipster. Southern Living Magazine includes gardening tips tailored to our climate, and Real Simple’s 2023 special edition is all about plants.
- When you have a more bountiful harvest than you know what to do with, check out Creativebug for video lessons on canning tomatoes, pickles, and jams; making shrubs—also known as drinking vinegars—from summer produce; and concocting herbal infused oils and even natural perfume.