Editor’s Note: I originally wrote A Dozen Things You Can Do Now to Start Your Spring Garden for Yahoo Makers, right before the company pulled the plug on that particular site. But I thought the research was just too valuable to go unpublished, so I asked my Yahoo editor if I could run it here on AtHomeInHollywood, and he kindly gave me permission. So here you go! I’ve already followed most of this advice in my own Hollywood garden. Yes, we DO get our hands dirty here. — Lisa Johnson Mandell
The weather outside is frightful to some, especially to those living in Northern states. But to others, particularly those in the Southwest, the delightful temperatures are reaching into the high 80’s and beyond. No matter where you may dwell, however, it’s not too early to get a jumpstart on what could be your best garden ever.
We’ve collected a number of tips to help you get your grow on and start your spring garden, no matter where you live and what kind of weather Mother Nature is dishing up. It’s never too early to prepare for the rights of spring.
1. Make a plan: Try to remember what you loved most about your garden last year, and what didn’t work at all. Make a list of the planting beds you hope to populate, and whether they’re sunny or shady. Also, make a list of the fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers you love most, and find out what growing conditions are best for them.
2. Go on a seed shopping spree: You can do this on a dark and stormy night in the comfort of your own home. Curl up with a soft throw and a good seed catalog, suggests Catherine Winter-Herbert of InHabitat.com. The more digitally oriented among us can settle in with a laptop. Some seeds that are best sown in February and March include: Vegetables: Artichokes, Asparagus, Broccoli, Cabbage, Chard, Collards, Lettuce, Onion Sets, Seed Potatoes, Shallot Bulbs, Spinach. Fruits: Blackberries, Grapes, Strawberries. Herbs: Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Echinacea, Fennel, Lavender, Parsley, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme. Annuals: African Daisy, Alyssum, Delphinium, Dianthus, English Daisy, Larkspur, Lobelia, Petunias, Poppies, Snapdragons,
4. Start sewing inside: Once you have the desired seeds in hand, you can start them inside, where you can control the climate. This can be more fun and certainly less expensive than purchasing you plants already that have already been started. You can order seedling starting trays online, and they’re relatively inexpensive.
5. Work on your compost: If you’ve been saving those coffee grounds and vegetable peelings all winter, it’s a good time to work in any extra additives and stir the contents of your compost container. Haven’t started composting yet? Try setting up a compost area, which could be a ready-made compost bin or a homemade variety using spare scraps of wood. A good mixture of grass clippings, vegetable peelings, and dried leaves is ideal. Make sure you turn your compost frequently to keep it aerated.
6. Clear the soil: By the time your seedlings have sprouted, there’s a good chance the snow will have melted, so now it’s time to remove all surface vegetation, dead or living, from your outdoor garden areas. Any new weeds that have appeared will be easiest to pull now, since the roots will be shallow.
7. Condition the soil: Once your soil is dry enough (See RodalesOrganicLife.com to find out how to discern this), you can amend your vegetable and flower beds with your compost and organic fertilizer. If it’s an established garden, add nutrients not top only, so they trickle down into the soil without affecting the established ecosystem. If you’re working in a spot that’s never been gardened before, you can work in soil supplements.
8. Start planting! Sow your early spring crops, like peas, spinach, lettuces and leeks first, then a few weeks later put in your broccoli, cabbage, radishes, kale, turnips, new potatoes and onions. That way you’ll be able to harvest all summer and into the fall.
9. Mulch: Covering inbetween spots with a few inches of mulch or ground cover will keep most new weeds from sprouting. You can use the natural mulch you make from dead leaves, or select from a variety of mulches you can purchase online or in your local garden shop.
10. Protect from frost: If you’re planting in March, chances are there will be a few extremely chilly nights left in this winter. You can cover your plant babies overnight with just about anything you have on hand: a vessel like a flower pot, weighted box or overturned bucket, fabric like a bed sheet or other material, just so it’s lightweight and can keep ground heat in and still allow for air flow.
11. Water: This may sound obvious, but there’s a fine art to watering, especially if you start your plants in March. Always water deeply, especially prior to the nights when temperatures are expected to drop below freezing. Dry plants are more likely to suffer extreme cold damage than well-watered ones. But you also need to be careful not to overwater — know that plants use water more slowly in cooler temperatures.
12. Work on the rest of your garden: Do you have roses? Come March, it’s time to prune them. You’ll also want to shear your hedges, shaping them and inhibiting crazy growth. In addition, you should cut back sturdy perennials like Esperanza and Firebush, according to NaturalGardenerAustin.com.
There now. Can’t you almost the delicious veggies you’ll be eating in several short month’s time? Can you smell the flowers that will be springing up before you know it? Why wait until Easter to experience the joy of working with the soil, when you can start communing with Mother Nature right now?
A Dozen Things You Can Do Now to Start Your Spring Garden