But, for those of us who have been inundated by snow and freezing cold weather, we are just dying to get out in the yard and do some gardening. Within the next month or so, it will be time to start getting the garden ready for spring, depending on where you live. Whether you are planning a huge vegetable garden or simply plant flowers wherever you want, here are some good helpful tips for you:
Check the Basics
The first thing you need to do is check your garden for any damage or issues you need to take care of before you start planting. Check out your trellis and fences for signs of damage or splintering. You may need to paint or replace them. If you use raised flower or vegetable gardens, make sure the sides are not bowed or coming apart. Look at the amount of weeds that grew over the winter months. Amazing how weeds can grow no matter how cold it gets. You will want to pull those weeds now. If there are too many of them, use a garden hoe or tiller to make the job easier and faster. Also, check out your compost area. If you do not have a compost area, now is a good time to start one. Oh, and take a little notebook and pen so you can write things down to do later that you do not want to forget.
Get Your Soil Ready
If you want to have the best producing garden in the neighborhood, you have to start early getting your soil ready. Test the soil first. You can buy a soil testing kit at any gardening store or big box store or you can buy one online. These tests should measure the amount of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, nitrogen, and the soil’s pH. The nutrient and pH levels in your soil are important to your garden’s success. However, even if you have the perfect nutrient levels but do not have the right pH, your plants will not be able to absorb the nutrients that they need. The instructions will tell you what minerals and nutrients you will need to add to your soil to get it ready for planting.
Check the Compaction Level
Another thing you need to know before you do any tilling or aerating is the amount of compaction your soil has. During the winter months, all that rain, snow, and ice can make your soil so compacted that it is hard to work with. In fact, if you start working the ground when it is too compacted, you can make it even more compacted. One easy way to test it is to pick up a ball of soil and squeeze it. If it stays in a ball, it is too wet to work with. You can also use a wire flag to see how far down you can go before it starts to bend. You will need at least one foot of easy penetrating soil to work with for the best results.
Okay, once you get rid of the weeds and your old, dead plants that have no chance of survival, it is time to mulch. If you are one of those people who do not mulch, let me tell you why it is important. First of all, it will smother those weeds that try to pop back up when you walk away. You just spent all that time getting rid of those winter weeds, don’t let them regrow as soon as you turn your back! Mulch also helps put nutrients back into the ground as it breaks down. This attracts those worms and other beneficial insects that are good for your garden. The more worms you have aerating your garden, the less work you have to do.
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Take a Look at Your Tools
You should always check the tool shed (or garage or wherever you keep your gardening tools) to see if you need to buy anything new. You probably already know what you need and may have what you need but, if they have been in the shed all winter, you may want to check them for rust or other damage. You never know. Maybe one of the grandkids used them to dig holes when they visited at Christmas. Anyway, it is a good idea to check. Some of the most essential tools to have for gardening include:
--Hori-Hori garden knife
--Good watering hose
You may need to sharpen some of your tools and get rid of some rust on others. Sharp tools make it much easier to dig and dull edges are not good for your soil.
Order Those Seeds
This is one of the most enjoyable parts of gardening for many of us. Going through catalogs or websites looking at all the amazing plants you want to grow this year. In my part of southern Missouri, you should be planting your seeds indoors as early as late February or March, depending on what you are planting. In some areas, you should start planting them in early February so you need to check out your zone for the right time to start them indoors. The Old Farmer’s Almanac has the information for the United States and Canada. So, get those seeds ordered and start collecting seed containers like egg cartons to grow them in. It’s almost time!
And, that’s basically it! Now you can just sit back and wait for those seeds to get here so you can get them started. Enjoy!