Chances are, the first warm day after this long winter (if you live in the northern states like we do) you’ll want to be out getting your gardens ready! There are a lot of things you can do before the actual planting begins, so check out our spring checklist for anything you may have missed!
First order of business is to check for growth in your established flower beds. See any greenery poking up through the ground? If yes, you’ve got some budding action going on beneath all that sad looking winter debris. Be sure to clear the beds of large pieces of debris and last year’s perennial foliage, most of which can go right into your compost pile! Make sure you also trim your summer blooming shrubs, cutting away any cold damage and refining the size of the shrub. If you have leftover mulch still in the bed from last fall, odds are you can rototill it right in with your new layer of compost! You’ll need at least 4 inches of compost in place before moving forward. (We’ll talk a little more about compost further down.)
Here are some links to our Spring Flowers section, so you can get your spring orders in just in time to plant!
Be sure to plant your new bare-root trees, shrubs and perennials such as hostas and daylilies by early spring, and sow the seeds of cool-season flowers like sweet peas, poppies and calendula around the same time. (FYI: “bare root” plants are those that are sold with their roots exposed. Plants sold bare root are dormant and should be planted ASAP. The roots should be kept moist at all times while exposed.) If you have existing perennials, be sure to verify which ones need to be pruned in the fall and which need to be pruned in the spring. The reason for this is that some perennials need to keep their dead leaves and branches to protect them from the harsh winter temperatures. Pruning them before spring could result in killing the plant, so be sure to wait until the danger of a hard frost has passed. Below is a list of some perennials we carry that require spring pruning:
All ornamental grasses should be cut within a few inches of the ground, to allow for new growth to be reached by the sun.
On vegetable garden beds, you should rip up and compost or rototill under any debris or dead foliage from the year before. Vegetable garden beds should be cultivated or rototilled to a depth no less than 10-12 inches for proper soil texture. Spring is the perfect time to pull young weeds before they go to seed and while the soil is soft and moist. Young weeds may be composted, but try to avoid composting mature, seeded weeds, as this may effectively add more weeds to your garden.
In order to properly prep your soil for planting, be sure to do a soil test that will tell you the pH and nutrient content of your soil. These readings will directly affect what your garden will be able to produce. We offer several tools to help you test your soil, as well as balance it if necessary. Most of the time, simply tilling compost into your soil with help with any deficiencies. If your soil is very poor and not workable at all, you have the option of building raised beds. Creating a raised bed can be as simple as rototilling your existing soil, incorporating organic matter (compost) and then mounding it neatly inside a wood frame to form a bed. Be sure to till the underlying soil down at least 12-18 inches. The most effective beds are mounded up around 3 feet at the highest area.
We hope to do an entire blog post dedicated to compost in the near future, so for right now we’ll just go over the basics. Compost is essentially a blend of different types of organic matter. Anything from dead leaves, grass clippings, cornstalks and dead plant scraps (shredded to small pieces) to things from your kitchen, such as vegetable and fruit peelings, crushed egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags or leaves. Everything is added to a pile in a specific location in your yard (away from any fences, buildings or the like) and is maintained by keeping damp and “turning” the pile. As the layers of matter decompose, they create a natural reaction inside the pile that breaks everything down into a rich, nutritious soil-like material that is amazing food for your plants! The only maintenance needed by the pile is keeping it moist, and turning or agitating it regularly to prevent foul odors from building up. Continue to add to your pile throughout the year and you’ll have beautiful compost ready for your spring gardens! Things that should NOT be added to your compost pile are as follows:
- Diseased plants or leaves
- Persistent weeds (poison ivy, multiflora rose, bindweed, quackgrass, etc.)
- Human or pet feces.
- Meat, dairy products and kitchen vegetables cooked with animal fats.
- Plants that have gone to seed
Your compost is ready to be used when it looks dark and crumbly and none of the starting ingredients are visible. One way to test if your compost is finished is to seal a small sample in a plastic bag for 24 to 48 hours. If you do not smell any strong odors when you open the bag, the compost is done. If this is your first year starting a compost pile and you don’t yet have compost that is useable, you can use composted cow, horse or chicken manure as alternative organic matter.
Another very important step that should not be forgotten is measuring before planting. Most seed packets provide information on growing, such as the depth that the seed needs to be in the ground and the distance between plants. Plants that are set too close together can inhibit the amount of sun, nutrients and water that each plant receives. Before you select your seed varieties and grow your seedlings, determine how much space you have to plant. You’ll want to plant things that will have maximum yield for a small area, including plants that grow up instead of out.
For your spring vegetable garden planting, we’ve put together pages of items that are popular for first time planters. Click the images to browse products by section!
For our berries section, we offer several varieties of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and grapes.
We also offer seven different varies of onions, all of which are in the Onions, Garlic & Ramps section.
We have on hand 17 different varieties of potatoes, which are listed in the Sweet Potatoes & Potatoes section. Be sure to get your spring orders in before March 17th, 2014, in order to plant everything in time!
For those that have existing fruit-bearing trees, make sure you trim and shape all your fruit trees before the buds begin to bloom. If you try to prune the trees after they’ve already begun to bud, you may end up stressing the tree into having a small or non-existent crop. Don’t let this put you off, though. Pruning and trimming are very important when it comes to fruit trees, because if you don’t trim them back enough the branches become so large and heavy with fruit that they may end up splitting off the tree. The flower buds on the trees also require a substantial amount of light, and when you prune your tree you are opening the canopy up enough for sunlight to come through. This also permits air movement, which helps prevent disease from riddling your tree.