It's gardening time

Jerry Apps
Tender plants reach upward under author Jerry Apps' grow light at his Waushara County home.

Finally, the wait is over. It’s time to begin planting the vegetable garden. We are late this year.

A couple of weeks ago snowbanks still stood near our garden spot, a little melt water oozing from their sides. Central Wisconsin had a major snowstorm on April10-11—around the time when I usually planted potatoes. And then it turned cold and the snow remained, and remained.

Winter is an arrogant season. It likes to come visiting in November, and then like a relative who doesn’t know when to leave, it sticks around until April. What other season gets to stay for five months?

But now, it appears spring has arrived, and the last snowbank has given up in the face of high 70s temperatures for a few days. My little tomato plants, happy under a “glow light” should be in good shape for transplanting after Memorial Day. Never before.

Old Man Winter always has a few nights below freezing to throw at us well into May. This year I have six different varieties. Old favorites like Big Boy and Early Girl, and Wisconsin 55. And ones I never heard of, but boast tomatoes as large as softballs. We’ll see.

Seed potatoes are ready for planting—Kennebec is my favorite. So are onion sets—yellow ones do best. And then comes the peas, lettuce and radishes. And cabbage and broccoli plants. Cool weather crops.

So, “hip, hip, and hurray.” It’s time to find the garden hoes and the row marker and get at it. 

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: A vegetable garden offers benefits that go well beyond the good food produced.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to