It’s Spring! Hooray! I don’t know about you but here in the PNW we have had one crazy winter. Okay, actually we had one crazy February. Winter wasn’t so bad until then! But here we are, it’s finally April! Easter is coming, the birds are singing, the bees and the butterflies are buzzing and pollinating. Are you ready??? Let’s go!!!
Feeling a little overwhelmed with what needs to be done to get your summer garden going? Read below for helpful spring gardening tips.
Know your zone – It’s important to know what planting zone you’re in so you know what plants will thrive in your area, when to direct sow outside and when to start your seedlings indoors. See the below map to find your zone. For more details visit the USDA website https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
What to plant? – A lot of people grow veggies because it’s fun. But if you’re growing varieties you don’t necessarily like, then what’s the point? A single zucchini plant can produce a LOT of zucchini. Decide how many of each variety you’re going to plant based on your family’s needs. Do you intend to sell your extra produce at a market? Share with friends? Do you do a lot of canning? What does your family like to eat? Most people don’t realize just how much their family consumes. A lot of vegetables have a great storage life so consider planting onions, garlic, potatoes, winter squash, etc. that your family can consume all winter. All of these need to be factored into your decision.
Clean up – Wait until your daytime temperatures are above 50 degrees to start your clean up. Beneficial insects have not yet emerged from their hibernation and starting too early can disrupt them. Remove debris from winter storms, dead leaves and branches. Dead leaves can be used as mulch or added to your compost. Remove weeds, pulling from the base to get the roots. Clean and sharpen gardening tools and replace anything that won’t work for you this year. Organize seeds, make lists of what you need to stock up on. Repair any fences and trellises, build new supports for vining plants and prune your plants.
Prepare any new beds – Find the best location in your yard, most plants will need at least 6 hours of sun daily. Make sure there are no utility or water lines before you dig, you can check with your utility company. Kill off existing weeds and grass by laying down several layers of wet newspaper or cardboard to smother them. Test your soil and add the appropriate amendments and organic matter, turning them in well.
Get your soil tested – Have your soil tested at your local extension office or buy an easy to use kit and do it yourself. Read up on the appropriate amendments and add what you need to make your soil fertile. Add organic material and work the soil if it’s compacted from winter. Find out your soil’s pH and make the appropriate adjustments based on what you plan to grow.
Mulch – mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, contributes to soil health, prevents soil erosion, insulates tender plants from cold temperatures, chokes out weeds and makes your garden beds look clean and neat.
Companion plants – Research companion planting. Some plants can improve the flavor and yield of others, offer support, repel pests, offer shade to other plants that may not need full sun, aid in pollination, improve soil health, suppress weeds, and more. Check out our blog post about companion planting.
Crop rotation – To maintain your soil, rotate your crops. Some crops can deplete your soil of nutrients. Beans can add nitrogen to your soil that may have been depleted by heavy feeders the year before. By rotating your crops you can also help to prevent disease in your soil and keep pest invasions controlled.
Hardening off your seedlings – You’ll need to prepare your seedlings for life outside by hardening them off. Do this gradually so you don’t shock the precious plants you’ve worked so hard to grow. Start on a mild day by setting your plants out in the sun for 2-3 hours in a location that’s sheltered by wind. Increase their exposure time by adding a few hours each day until they can stay outside full time. Make sure you watch the weather and know the growing conditions of each variety, some hardier plants can withstand temperatures down to 40 degrees at night while others will need to be protected until temperatures climb higher.
Don’t forget about the pollinators! – Pollinators are essential to a successful garden. Attract bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and bats with pollen-rich native flowers. Consider organic growing methods to protect them and other beneficial insects. Provide shelter with low growing shrubs, bat, bird and butterfly houses or by allowing a log or dead tree to decompose. Provide water with special feeders, a water feature or a bird bath.
Now that you’re prepared and organized, get out there and get your hands dirty! Ready…set…PLANT!