Garden and Afield, week of 2017, March 26 to April 1

Article and photos by Joe Mish

RAINFALL: It rained about 2.5 inches in the New Brunswick-Trenton area at the end of last week. So, it will be interesting to see what this week’s drought maps say.

sapia - 4.1.17 garbage in drainage ditch

Garbage floating in a Monroe, Middlesex County, drainage ditch

sapia - 4.1.17 garbage on tree snag

Garbage caught on a tree snag
in Manalapan Brook, Monroe, Middlesex County

NON-POINT SOURCE POLLUTION: During and after the week’s rains, the flow of non-point source pollution was obvious in our waterways. The cost-free way of dealing with it is, do not litter and do not leave stuff out in the yard, then it will not float into waterways.

sapia - 4.1.17 spring peeper in Manalapan

A spring peeper treefrog, found in the Manalapan Brook floodplain

FROGS: I walked into the swamp hardwood forest of the Manalapan Brook floodplain between Helmetta and Jamesburg early in the week. The sleigh bells-like sound of spring peeper treefrogs, “Pseudacris crucifer crucifer,” was obvious. I also heard monkey chattering-like sound of wood frogs, “Rana sylvatica.”

RASPBERRIES: I planted five bare-root Burpee seed company Caroline raspberry plants.

GARDEN ZONES: Depending on the source, the area is Garden Zone 6 (cooler) to Garden Zone 7 (warmer). That means our last frost generally is April 15 to 30; Our first frost is generally Oct. 11 to 20. Beyond that, I am playing it safe and sticking with Zone 6 for my Helmetta area, Middlesex County, home, although the area becoming a solid Zone 7 because of global warming is likely just around the corner.

OUTDOOR PLANTING FOR SUMMER VEGETABLES AND FRUITS: My rule of thumb is May 20 if it is a warm to normal and, if it is cooler, wait to June 1.

PREPARING PLANTS INDOOR: This year, though, I am trying something new, sowing plants indoors before the outside plant dates. So, I am experimenting with Kaleidoscope Blend Organic and Touchon carrots, Iceberg A lettuce, and Sugar Snap peas, all Burpee, which I began sowing about March 5. I added Rutgers tomatoes about March 25. I plan on sowing more tomatoes – Brandywine Red and Red Cherry, both Lake Valley brand – indoors in the next day or so.

HUMMINGBIRDS: Get the hummingbird feeders up by about April 15 to attract the early “scout” birds and they hopefully will lead later-arriving hummingbirds to the feeders.


SUNRISE/SUNSET: Approximate times are April 2, Sunday, 6:40 and 7:23 Eastern Daylight Time; April 3, Monday, 6:38 and 7:25; April 4, Tuesday, 6:36 and 7:26; April 5, Wednesday, 6:35 and 7:27; April 6, Thursday, 6:33 and 7:28[ April 7, Friday, 6:31 and 7:29; an April 8, Saturday, 6:30 and 7:30.

WEATHER: Local weather forecasts are available at

sapia - 4.1.17 carnegie lake

Carnegie Lake near the Kingston dam
on the boundary of Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset counties


Joe Sapia, 60-years-old, grew up and lives in the Pine Barrens around Helmetta, where his family has resided for more than 100 years. He can be reached at or at P.O. Box 275, Helmetta, 08828.