With spring upon us (well, some of us :)), it’s time to finalize your garden plans. By being prepared, you’ll be certain to be ready for your first day of planting. While this day varies from region to region based on frost dates, most gardeners can plan on March-April to begin their outdoor festivities.
But why wait? You can start many of your seeds indoors and get a jump-start on the season! Which brings us to the first item on the checklist:
1 – Order seeds. Grow what you’ll eat—not what’s easy. I know it’s tempting, but there’s no sadder day than the one when you witness perfectly good food withering on the vine because no one wanted to harvest it. The “excitement” factor was missing. The “ah-ha” moment, if you will. Rule number one: Gardening should be fun!
2 – Design layout. If building container beds, get your lumber now. I don’t know about you, but my husband likes a bit of notice before he’s asked to perform. Getting your creative juices warmed and flowing now will help speed the process later. “Oh, honey… About that little favor I mentioned! “
3 – Sharpen your tools. Or simply clean them off, know where they are, organize them. You get my drift. The last thing you need is to be searching for that trowel when you need it. Mine is indispensable because it weeds (its primary function), digs, buries and levels. You gotta love a multi-tasker. Other essentials include gloves, hat, sunscreen and water bottle.
For you serious gardeners, you might want to add a long-handled hoe (I prefer the triangular-shaped head) for the job of cultivating your rows. Not me. I’m a busy gal with a bad back – “till as you go” is more my speed!
4 – Turn your compost. You do have a compost pile, don’t you? It’s too easy not to—just toss, pile, and turn. Easy as 1-2-3!
5 – Organize your rows/containers based on companion planting. Like people, plants do have their favorites, so keep them close. Besides keeping the harmony, it provides a natural pesticide helping ease your workload. The sooner you break out the excel program (my preferred garden journal), the sooner you’re planting seeds and keeping track. Bear in mind your crop rotation as well—unless this is your first time playin’ in the sunshine! For serious techies, try this nifty program for planning your garden. Really cool.
6 – Check your water supply. Now’s the time to fix those leaky drip hoses or grease any squeaky sprinkler heads. And if you can’t fix them–replace them–before spring fever hits and they’re scooped from the shelves by other eager beavers. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency in the eyes of the store manager.
7 – Gather your mulch. Discarded newspapers, lawn trimmings, hay, pine straw and bark… All of these lend themselves well for use as natural mulch, though be sure to wet your newspaper down (or layer it with another form of mulch for a good thick cover). Trust me. Your neighbors will not be happy when your “mulch” blows across their lawn.
8 – Prepare soil. Remove weeds and add compost. 100% organic, it provides an excellent soil amendment, rich in the nutrients your plants need. Also, till your beds ahead of time. This will introduce air into the soil and accelerate bacteria activity, which in turn helps release nutrients into the soil. If your worms have been busy, be sure to harvest their castings ahead of time, giving the “worm poop” plenty of time to dry before use. Word to the wise: after you’ve taken the time to remove weeds from your soil, be sure to cover your beds with row covers (or a hefty dose of mulch). Otherwise, you’ll be wedding again before your seeds/seedlings arrive on scene. In my house, that’s call for mutiny.
9 – Soil test. If you’re not sure what shape your soil’s in, take a sample to your local garden store. I take mine to the seed and feed and they test it on the spot. You do-it-yourselfers will prefer a home test kit. They’re simple to use and give a good idea where you stand soil-wise. Then, depending on what you’re planting, you might want to adjust the pH (acidity-alkalinity) by adding lime to raise pH, or peat/pine/sulfur to lower it.
10 – Dream. Until your seedlings are ready to hit the garden, sit back and wistfully dream of the day when your beds will be lush and full, and flourishing with life.
It helps to pass the time until planting season really begins!