I often have friends and family ask me for lawn care advice when it’s too late in the season. We tend to start gardening once the weather is agreeable but there is plenty to do ahead of time.
Spring planting can be tricky to time just right, which is why you need to prep your yard and gardens now for a successful season. Even if it seems like the snow isn’t going away anytime soon, don’t be caught off guard and have to play catch up in your garden all year long. As Benjamin Franklin once wisely noted: “Success is the residue of planning.”
Here are some important tips to keep in mind as you prep your plants for the warmer months:
1. Make a plan
Above all, prepare for spring by making a plan. I find it helpful to map out the landscape ahead of time to avoid crowding, dry spots and other variables that can inhibit growth. Check out each zone in the yard and determine which plants you want and where.
Plan for a good mix of perennials and annual flowers so you can have color blooming throughout the season. Plant according to height to ensure that taller plants are not blocking the sun from the shorter ones. You don’t have to rely on plants alone to add a splash of color to your yard, as well. Consider colored pots, chairs and anything else you can imagine that might make your yard stand out.
2. Give your yard a clean cut
It’s time to turn over a new leaf; spring cleaning is just what your plants need to ensure a nurturing environment. Clear all of the broken branches, leaves and other debris out of your garden beds and lawn. Rake your lawn, giving special attention to any thatch you might find. Trim away dead or broken branches on your trees and bushes. You should also cut back your perennials by removing last year’s dead growth. All of these efforts encourage new growth.
3. Prepare the foundation
Rain and snow will cause soil to become wet and compacted. One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced gardeners make is planting and working the soil too soon. You can test quickly if it is ready by picking up a ball of soil; if it stays in a ball then it’s still too early, but if it is soft and breaks apart easily then you’re ready to plant.
When the soil is ready for planting, start by turning it over with a pitchfork and then raking out any weeds or leaves. Make sure to add some compost to your soil a couple of weeks before planting to allow time for the nutrients to mix while not burning the roots. For those with well-established lawns, spring is also a great time to consider fertilizing.
4. Make sure to mulch
Flowers, bushes and trees love mulch. It forms a protective barrier between your plants and the bare soil. Mulch is also a fantastic insulator; it helps retain water, keeping the roots moist and prevents soil compaction. Mulch is also a great way to prevent weeds from growing and looks great in your yard.
5. Give plants a head start in the home
If it feels like you won’t see your garden for a while, growing plants indoors is a great option, especially for vegetables that require a long growing season. It’s a great way to start your garden when you are still cooped up inside the house, especially if you have young growers at home that would like to learn.
Planting your seeds indoors is also less expensive than buying starter plants from a nursery. I recommend using containers with drainage holes and a seed-starting mix rather than soil from the garden to ensure proper drainage. Always be sure to check your seed packets for the planting depth.
6. Edge your beds
Save yourself from extra work this spring by edging your garden now. Edging helps to prevent weeds and the lawn from encroaching on your garden bed. Not to mention that it makes your yard look fantastic.
No matter whether you are a gardening novice or have been sporting a green thumb for ages, you can always get one step ahead to help attain that beautiful and lush yard. Consider starting now as we begin to thaw out and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief later on.
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By Pamela Crawford, author, Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs
Photographs by Pamela Crawford
Pamela has written a great article about mixing herbs in containers. Herbs are natural companions with different textures for interest. The herb mix of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme offers lots of flavor from a small combination loaded with textural interest.
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