If you’re getting antsy to put on your gardening gloves and get out in the yard, here’s a guide to planning and preparing your Spring garden.
If you’re new to gardening, you may think the growing season doesn’t begin until April or May. But that’s not true — you can start planting seeds much earlier.
In fact, you should! If you start the right crops now, you’ll likely be harvesting your own fresh veggies by April or May.
But notice, I said you must start the right crops.
There are a handful of plants that thrive in the cooler conditions of late winter and early spring.
The following 16 crops tolerate nippy nights and, in some cases, even light freezes:
- Chinese cabbage
- Swiss chard
Start with this checklist as soon as weather permits, and you’ll save more time later for planting seeds and starter plants and tending to this year’s garden.
Start Cleaning Up Your Garden
Get debris out of the way by raking away dead leaves, sticks, and branches and removing rocks that have been heaved to the surface by frost.
Test Your Soil
To see if your soil needs additional nutrients or minerals, or an adjustment in acidity or alkalinity, send a sample to your local county extension service, or purchase an at-home soil tester from your local garden center or online. An at-home test will give you the tools to interpret some basic levels such as pH and nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. It’s a good idea to get a more detailed test of your soil from your county extension service about once every three years.
Tackle Existing Weeds
Remove existing weeds from your garden. The more weeds you eliminate now, the less competition your garden plants will face for sunlight, nutrients and moisture.
Check If the Soil Is Workable
Pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles easily, you can start preparing your beds. If it sticks together in a clump, it’s still too wet to work in, and you’re best off waiting another week or two for more winter moisture to evaporate.
Plan Your Spring Vegetable Garden
1. Get a jump-start on your seeds and begin planning your spring garden as soon as possible. By starting early, you can lengthen your garden’s productive life.
2. Research the vegetables you’d like to grow. Make sure your plants will get enough light in the location you choose.
3. If you gardened last year, review the results you got. Were you happy with your plants’ yield? If not, consider relocating or changing techniques.
4. Try new varieties that you haven’t tried before. Get adventurous with your vegetable garden, and your family will reap the benefits in nutrition. Experiment with arugula, mustard greens, kale, turnips, kohlrabi, English peas, chard and radishes to spice up your menus and add variety to your garden.
5. Consider incorporating herbs into the mix. If you’ve already been growing herbs, incorporate a new one. Basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary are great first herbs, or you can try exotic varieties like cilantro. You’ll love the flavor fresh herbs add to your cooking, and you’ll enjoy savings when you don’t have to buy expensive dried herbs.
6. Keep in mind that attracting pollinators will improve your garden’s production, perhaps dramatically. Incorporating a few flowers into your garden will keep the bees swirling and your plants happily yielding throughout the season.
7. Do some research about plants that are native to your area. Try incorporating those into your garden. Plants that naturally grow where you live will be easier and more likely to yield than imports.
8. Go organic. Explore nontraditional gardening means, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you’re feeding your family healthier alternatives that you grew.
9. Start a compost pile. If you haven’t been composting, consider starting this season. Your vegetable and yard wastes will decompose into the perfect mixture for you to grow next year’s vegetable garden. It’s easy to get started, and you’ll feel good about using your waste efficiently.
10. Get your family or community involved in your vegetable garden project. From giving some of your yield to neighbors to donating to a senior center or food bank, you’ll enjoy sharing your nutritious harvest with others. Your children will love gardening with you if you give them tasks to do, and they’ll enjoy the good feeling of sharing the family produce.