by Nancy Erdmann
With the spring planting season fast approaching, it’s a good time to get your garden in order. This is when you want to prep your soil, purchase seeds and assess your garden tools. Here are some tips to make the job easy.
Prepare your soil by working well-composted organic matter into your existing soil. Because plants use up their organic resources throughout the year, the soil needs to be replenished to keep it viable.
Watters Garden Center offers their formula for amending soil. Start with a 2-inch layer of 50-percent composted mulch and 50-percent deodorized manure. Top this with a sprinkling of gypsum, soil sulfur and organic tomato and vegetable food (using the recommended amounts). According to Watters, the organic food is not only good for produce, but also for producing vibrant flower gardens. Work all of the ingredients into the soil at about one shovel’s depth and you’re good to go.
Growing From Seed
February is a great time to peruse garden catalogs for vegetable and flower seeds. Around the middle of March start broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds indoors for planting in early April. Seeds of sugar snap peas and English peas can go in the ground around mid-March or as soon as the ground thaws. Mid-March is also a great time to start tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds indoors, which can be planted in mid-May.
If you love flowers, February and March are the times to sow seeds of perennials that germinate in cold weather, such as butterfly weed, blue flax, calendula, columbine, hollyhock, penstemon and wildflower mixes. Cool-weather annuals can also go in at this time and include dianthus, larkspur, nasturtium, petunia, snapdragon and sweet pea.
Tools Every Gardener Should Have On Hand
Gloves — Aside from protecting your hands and nails from dirt and thorns, they also protect your skin from allergic reactions to plants and fertilizers. For light work, try nitrile-coated gloves. The palms and fingers are covered with a tough but thin flexible material that withstands punctures yet offers an amazing amount of dexterity. Heavy-duty leather gloves keep hands warm in cooler temperatures and are great for working with roses and other thorny plants.
Hand trowel — This is probably the tool you will use most when it comes to transferring dirt into pots, planting annuals or minor digging. Go for one made from forged steel rather than flimsy stainless steel.
Kneeling pad — While not exactly a tool, this handy lightweight rectangle of foam makes kneeling on the ground doable and is a knee saver when working in low beds or pulling weeds.
Loppers — Basically a long-handed pruner, loppers allow you to cut thicker branches and access hard-to-reach places. These are usually lightweight to lessen fatigue.
Pruning saw — Ideal for trimming live tree or thick-shrub branches, its teeth are as sharp as those on saws used for cutting lumber. Use for branches thicker than 1.5 inches.
Pruning shears — This multiuse tool should be a staple in your tool kit. Use it for trimming spent blooms, removing dead stems, cutting up plants for the compost pile, or harvesting herbs, fruits or vegetables. Buy the best you can because they’re going to get a lot of use.
Rake — Available in metal, plastic or bamboo and designed in various shapes and sizes, rakes do a superb job of helping you clean up leaf, grass and plant debris, as well as moving rocks, gravel and sand.
Shovel — If you only have one shovel, make it a long-handled, round-pointed one with a lip on the back for pressing down with your foot. Use it for digging holes, moving soil or lifting plants.
Weeder — A lifesaver for any gardener, this tool comes in short- and long-handled versions and myriad designs. Pick the one most comfortable for your grip.
Wheelbarrow — When it’s time to haul soil, add compost or mulch to your garden or move a heavy plant, the wheelbarrow is your friend. Check that tires are inflated properly for ease of use.