Getting the Garden Ready: A Pre-Spring Checklist
The weeks leading up to Spring are the best time to tackle some of the more tedious tasks on a gardener's checklist.
Taking the time to prepare for the season now will help planting feel less chaotic and actually make tending to your full grown garden easier. Get your garden ready to grow with these essential pre-spring projects for a long and healthy harvest.
1. Clear garden beds
It's likely leaves, sticks and general debris have gathered in or around your garden beds throughout the fall and winter. Clearing a garden can help you assess the health and level of the soil while revealing dead grasses or perennial herbs that need to be cut back for regrowth. Although you can leave the plant matter for wildlife until early spring, if the soil is workable you can get a head start on adding a layer of organic manure or compost on top of your beds (~5 cm). Spring blooms fast, so having a clear garden early in the season is a great first step for dealing with weeds or aggressive growth later on.
2. clean tools and check for wear
Although tools are tough, plants are delicate, especially in the early stages. It's important to make sure that every tool you use is clean from potentially dangerous bacteria or fungi and in well working order to avoid damage to your crops (or you!). Cleaning and attending to routine maintenance on farm tools, such as sharpening, can ensure efficiency, safety, and greatly extend the life of your tools. Well cared for tools are instrumental to bringing clean cut and healthy produce to the table. Caring for your tools is an investment in your future food. It also doesn't hurt to take a quick inventory to make sure you enough essentials, like shovels, spades and shears.
3. repair any damaged beds, gates, or other growing systems
Once in full operation, small snags can feel like big problems. When you are harvesting, watering, and trying to enjoy the literal fruits of your labor this summer, stopping to reseal a bed or replacing a latch could bring a moment of frustrating reality into your gardening fantasy. If you know that your garden requires supplemental growing tools such as a trellis or fence, be sure to check your current infrastructure for any wear and replace where appropriate. Apply sealant to wood on a dry day, for example. Pictured is a string system used as a light support for cucumbers to wrap their delicate tendrils around. Setups like this need to be inspected annually.
4. inspect or install watering and irrigation systems
Unless you are tending a succulent garden, a clean water source is one of the most important resources for your plants. Make sure you have access to a reliable natural or public works water store throughout the growing season. If you are using a hose, check it regularly for leaks or wear. If you are using an irrigation system to water your plants you will need to check your pipes, sprinklers and timers often to ensure your crops are being watered at even intervals. Water can also be sourced from rain through small towers or rain barrels. Using rain water is recommended for its lower alkaline levels.
5. Sow early seeds
To account for the longer growing season of certain plants you should consider starting some seedlings indoors. Using small trays with a few inches of soil and heated lights you can germinate shoots to be transferred easily to beds after the frost breaks. This process ensures healthy growth at the early stages of the plant's life. A lot of flowers with a long season can be started indoors prior to spring, such as begonias and geraniums. Peas, potatoes and peppers can be started indoors as early as January.
6. Move dormant deciduous plants
Come spring you may find that permanent flora are suddenly in an inconvenient place. Whether you've rearranged your garden, adjusted the amount of sunlight, or find a plant isn't doing as well as you would like, some times you need to uproot and move things around. Deciduous plants, like maple trees and lavender bushes, are dormant during the winter before regrowing every spring. Deciduous trees and plants are easier moved before their leaves come in but while the ground is not frozen, mid March usually being ideal. To move these plants you should soften the soil with water, prune and tie up the branches, dig to the end of the root spread, and lift the plant out of the soil onto a moist cloth before replanting. The new hole should have an added 30-60 cm of room to account for new root growth.
7. Tackle pests
Insects have had a long Winter, too, and soon they will be waking from their hibernation. Be sure to check at the crowns of perennial plants for snails or slugs. Keep an eye out for weevil larvae before laying your organic matter as they live in compost and feed off plant roots. To handle invasive garden pests we recommend using a DIY insecticide. There are many simple recipes with on hand ingredients, like vegetable oil and castile soap. Planting marigolds, rosemary, lavender, or mint are natural ways to keep pests out of the garden while supporting pollinators. Adding a layer of mulch will also attract productive predators such as spiders to protect crops all season.
8. Create composting area
Chickens at the Coeur et Sol homestead have a very important job— they break down all the soil and scraps from our microgreens and kitchen while turning our compost. Even without chickens to do all the work, maintaining a composting area is simple. Compost piles are made of at least three feet of brown and green plant material placed in a dry and shady spot. The layers should alternate with approximately three brown layers to one green. Water the pile frequently enough to keep it damp, adding produce scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, and other organic materials. When the compost darkens and is free from visible organic materials it is ready to be used for any garden project.
9. replace worn gear
Between changing weather and frequent use, gardening can be hard on your clothes. Before setting out to garden, make sure your gloves, pants, jackets and hats work for the wide range of temperatures spring brings. While a little dirt never hurts, it's good to check outer layers are free from holes. You may even want to pick up a couple of back ups now. I already invested in three pairs of Nitrile Touch garden gloves for the season. Don't be afraid to show some style, etiher! These Heirloom Gardening overall shorts Duluth Trading Company are a go to for me. As a former fashionista turned lady farmer, these are the perfect mix of posh and practical. Whatever you wear, just make sure it's what's most comfortable and protective for your hours gardening.
10. order summer seeds
The last step is to decide what to fill your garden with this summer. After the final frost and once daytime temperatures remain above 65F on average, summer crops such as tomatoes, squash, melons, cucumbers, beans and corn can go in the ground. These conditions are also ideal for planting summer flowering bulbs like lilies. We recently placed our spring and summer seed orders with Johnny's Selected Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Tomatoes, root vegetables, leafy greens and cut flowers are a few of the things we are excited to be growing at our urban farm this year.
Even starting some of these chores now will not only be a relief, but should get you excited for the productive and warm days to come. Are there any special steps you take to get your garden ready for planting? Tips are always welcome.
Wishing you all the best of luck with the first stages of spring!