Spring has come a little early this year. I’m seeing signs all throughout my garden. The daffodils that poked through the soil in late January are nearing the end of their blooms. Neighborhood fruit trees are flowering. Even the songbirds have come back and are staking out their territories for this year’s nest.
Just like them, I’m getting ready for the coming year. I’ve begun tidying the garden and removing frost damaged growth. Already the weeds are showing up so I need to get mulch spread out to retard their growth and give me more time for the fun stuff.
You too need to get out there and dig around in the dirt. Now is the season when a little work will reap a lot of beauty and harvest through the year. Here are four things I recommend you do now.
Get Your Tools Ready
When that magical morning comes that you have both time and energy to garden, don’t be held back by not having the right tools for the job. Right now, before you need them, do a quick inventory of your garden tools. Hand tools should have solid handles easy-grip that won’t come apart at the wrong time. Cutting tools should be cleaned off with steel wool and sprayed with a light lubricant like WD-40 (a family favorite of mine). Power tools should be serviced early in the season to beat the rush.
As you’re getting ready, remember hoses and spray nozzles. Planting a garden is a waste of time if you can’t water it. Is your hose long enough to reach the farthest garden bed? Does it need new hose-end washers? Do your nozzles and sprinklers work?
Last but not least make sure you have good garden gloves. Cloth gardens with rubberized palms are fine for most garden work. But if you’re doing heavy-duty jobs (e.g. pruning, stonework) get a decent pair of leather gloves. Your hands will thank you for this all year long.
Don’t Spread Unnecessary Soil Amendments
Most of us work with a budget and have limited funds for gardening. If you want to improve your soil, your best bet is a combination of composted organic material. Compost is composed of plant material (dead leaves, grass clippings, shredded bark, etc.) that has broken down enough to be mixed in with topsoil. Compost is essentially the ultimate organic fertilizer. It adds nutrients, helps soil to retain water, and prevents soil from becoming too compact. You can’t miss with compost.
What you should not buy is what I call “boutique soil amendments.” I’m sure you’ve seen ads for them with wild claims that using this secret ingredient will double your harvest. These are one of the biggest wastes of money in the garden. Chances are good it is totally bogus or unnecessary. Unless you know your soil has a mineral deficiency (not all that common) stick with good ol’ compost and simple fertilizers.
Don’t Get Advice from Click-Bait Sites
There’s an evil epidemic out there in the garden world. It comes from internet click-bait sites. You know the ones I’m talking about – “Twelve Sure Fire Garden Hacks” with one per page accompanied by a bewildering array of advertisements begging for you to click on them. It’s these sites that keep alive bad garden advice. Some examples include:
- Add Epsom salts to prevent [your choice of garden problem].
- Plant seeds in eggshells [where they will germinate and quickly die unless they are immediately transplanted].
- Root a rose cane is a potato [really? Why not directly in the soil?]
Just say no to click-bait. Stick to reputable garden sites written and managed by people who actually garden.
Keep it Simple – and Small
My last bit of advice is don’t overdo it. Make a list of all the things you want to plant – and cut it in half. Keep a firm grip on yourself when you go to the nursery. If you see something that looks wonderful, ask yourself two questions:
- Where will I put it?
- When will I plant it?
If you can’t decide where it will go and when it will be planted, leave it there. There is no sadder sight than a nursery plant still in the original container months after it was purchased. And yes, I’ve done that all too often.
Spring is a wonderful time in the garden. This year garden smart with these four bits of sage advice. You – and your garden – will be glad you did.