We don’t think we’re imagining it (and indulge us if we are): The temperature’s rising. The ground’s beginning to thaw. The first signs of growth are starting to appear on the trees. It can only mean one thing — hello spring!
While it’s too early to officially start gardening, (many plants and vegetables won’t survive those last frosty evenings) the first sign of warmer weather is prime time for preparing your garden for the coming season. From drawing up plans to finally getting to that special project you’ve put off year after year, we give you the checklist of all checklists to get your backyard prepped.
1. Make a List. Whether it’s your first or your 21st year with a garden, it’s important to start with a solid plan. Make a list of what kinds of plants, herbs and vegetables you want to grow and figure out how much of each you’d like to yield. When making the list, take into consideration the amount your family can consume in one week (nothing stinks more than spoiled veggies) and whether or not you’ll be canning or preserving some of your stock for future nibbles.
2. Draw a Picture. While taking a pencil to paper to draw your future garden can be a fun afternoon art project, with today’s technology it may be easier to use a free garden software or app. These new-fangled tools can be used on your tablet, laptop or smartphone and make coming up with a coherent rendering easy-breezy for those of us who lack art skills.
3. Get Rid of the Bad Guys. We don’t mean pirates and ninjas (although if you have those in your yard, you may want to do something about it), but items that could keep your garden from growing — weeds, sticks, dead leaves and spent flowers on annuals and perennials. It’s also important to trim back trees and shrubs that are throwing shade on areas you need to catch the sun.
4. Pursue a Big Project. Cultivating your dream garden may be too time consuming or not financially viable to accomplish all in one fell swoop. Before you start planting, pick one big project that you’d like to pursue. This could include a new fence, a gazebo, a shed, a small greenhouse for year-round growing or even an irrigation system or freshwater pond. Don’t forget to include this project in your plan so that you make the space for it.
5. Tend to the Soil. A happy, healthy garden is a direct result of nutrient rich soil. Before you prep your soil, edge your garden plot with a clean line of bricks, wood or stones to create a well-defined area. Test the soil to see if it’s ready for planting. You can do this by simply grabbing a handful and rolling it into a ball — if it crumbles it’s ready. You’ll also need to invest in a soil testing kit — they’re inexpensive and available at your local garden store — to find out which nutrients are lacking so you can add the proper amendments like humus, manure, leaf mold and bark. Know though, that most soil will probably only need a good dose of compost to get it on its way.
Once you’ve balanced out the soil, it’s time to add fertilizer. Those looking to stay eco-friendly should ask their local garden store about organic fertilizers that don’t use chemicals.
What are your garden plans for the year?