The days are getting longer and perhaps a little warmer, if only in your imagination. If you dwell in the north, you're likely to be still buried in snow, but if you live in a warmer climate, you're enjoying the first bulbs popping out of the dormant winter ground, and you're just starting to see the first buds on the early blooming trees. This means spring is near, and for gardeners, it can't come soon enough. Every green thumb anxiously awaits digging in the dirt, de-winterizing and putting it all back together. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do in the days before the soil is finally warm enough to plant in. It's time to order your seeds, and one of the greatest pleasures for many gardeners is poring over the seed catalogs. Now is also a great time to assess your gardening tools and to get them into working order. Remove rust spots and oil hinges, and replace the ones that are irreparable. Once that first chore is complete, read on for more late winter gardening projects.
Clean Out Your Beds
Before you'll be able to plant anything, you have some spring cleaning to do to your flower beds. The first task at hand is to pull out all of the dead plant matter from last year. Your perennials appreciated the extra layer during the winter months, but once you see new growth at the bottom, you can officially pull off all the brown leaves. Be careful not to disturb anything that's starting to sprout below them. And any weeds that have started to peek their heads out need to be removed immediately. As all accomplished gardeners know, the key to weed maintenance is to weed early and often. Right now, while the soil is still damp, the job will be a little easier. Just be sure not to add the weeds to your compost pile; they could sprout even more weeds when you add the compost back into your beds.
Till and Fertilize the Soil
Now's also the time to make sure your soil is properly balanced and ready for new plants. Once the beds are all cleaned out, it's time to till the ground. This will help aerate and loosen up soil that has compacted over the winter, which will encourage the soil to absorb nutrients better. It will also make it easier to plant.
You should also test your soil to see if it has the right pH. If not, you'll want to add your amendments now. Wood ash will give you more acidity, and lime will yield more alkalinity. You'll also want to get some compost or manure to sift in while you're tilling to strengthen the soil even more.
Spring plants need some food while they're growing, so you can also use slow-release fertilizer. And if you're the type of gardener who doesn't really have patience for weeds, you may also want to add a weed cover layer. A layer of newspaper with some mulch on top of will suffocate the weeds and keep them from growing.
- Cannon, Wanda. "Get your garden ready for spring." Gainesvilletimes.com, February 27, 2009.http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/archives/15356/
- "Get Your Garden Ready for Spring." Greenwoodnursery.com, 2010.http://www.greenwoodnursery.com/page.cfm/52341
- "Getting Your Garden Ready for Spring." Homeowner.net, February 13, 2007.http://www.homeownernet.com/lawn-garden/gardenreadyspring.html
- Mueller, Annie." 5 Tips to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring." Organicauthority.com, 2010.http://www.organicauthority.com/organic-gardening/5-things-to-do-for-winter-gardening.html