March is a crazy time for gardeners. We wait for the arctic air to retreat north while counting the days to the last frost. Then one morning we step outside and discover that spring has snuck in under cover of darkness and we’re instantly behind on weeding, watering, and transplanting.
Don’t get caught off-guard. If you plan now, you won’t be wasting precious weekend hours on a trip to a crowded garden shop. Save yourself a little time and plan a pre-spring shopping trip now for garden supplies. Here are some things to put on your list.
First Aid For Hoses – As soon as you haul out the hoses, you’ll rediscover all the leaky spots you ignored last fall. Start by replacing the hose washers. Reinforce any spots threatening to tear with an application of duct tape, the handyman’s secret weapon. For more serious problems buy a hose mender kit. They’re easy to use and can stretch your garden dollars.
Soaker Hose – If you’ve been using sprinklers in past years, you might want to try soaker hoses. I call this “the busy gardeners drip irrigation.” I’ve been using them in my gardens for several years. These porous hoses made of recycled material. Just position the hoses and rake a layer of mulch over them to prevent the water from spraying where you don’t want it.
Plant Support Supplies – Some plants tend to flop over once their blossoms reach a certain height. Have on hand garden twine and 3-4 foot plant stakes for such problems. There are also specialty staking products available in garden catalogs. One looks like a grid on stilts. This support is designed so the plant grows up through the openings before flowering – a nifty solution to an annual problem.
And of course there’s the ever-popular cone-shaped tomato cage. People have starting using them for more than just tomatoes. Turned upside down they make a quick-and-easy support for climbing plants like sweet peas or pole beans. When you’re shopping be on the lookout for cages sprayed in different colors. This transforms them from merely utility to decorative and useful.
Gloves, Hat, Kneeling Pad – Gardening will be a lot more fun if you have a these three items for protection. Buy gloves with rubberized palms that will protect your hands from thorns and sharp objects lurking in the dirt. Get a wide-brim hat to protect your skin and shade your eyes. In windy areas make sure it has a chin strap. And don’t forget your hard-working knees. A kneeling pad made of dense foam will protect them cuts and scrapes.
Sunscreen and Bug Spray – Buy a bottle of sunscreen to keep in the garage or shed with your garden tools. If it’s handy you’ll use it more often. Even if you’re not a pale-skinned blond like me, it’s wise to guard your skin against cumulative damage from the sun.
While you’re at the store, buy some insect repellant too. What the sun doesn’t burn, the bugs will bite unless you’re protected.
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Weather Monitoring – What the weatherman reports is never quite the same as what you experience at home. To keep track of conditions in your garden buy a rain gauge. Knowing how much rain you got last week helps determine how much watering you have to do this week. Add to your list a high-low thermometer that records the lowest and highest daily temperatures and you can be a weather-smart gardener.
Finally, remember to check your supply of soil amendments, fertilizers, insect sprays, and fungal powders before your trip to the garden shop. Spending a little time now while the weather is still chilly will make the coming season less frantic. Then when winter finally retreats to the north you’ll be ready to spring into action.