If you are like me, sometime around February and March, you begin to get antsy, ready for warmer weather so you can get out of the house and plant things! Well, where I live, on the border of zones 6b and 7a, that is NOT the time to plant. Planting is not a good idea here until the middle of April for most green things, after the last frost. However, there are some things you can do to get ready.
As spring approaches, on a warmish day, you can get out and clean up the gardens, if you didn’t do that in the fall. Some plants that are tender need to stay covered with mulch until warm weather actually arrives but some that pop up early, like crocus, may need to be uncovered a bit.
Clean up debris and limbs that may have accumulated over the winter. This seems to happen no matter how diligent you are! And it is one of the more unpopular tasks, I know. But if you want a pretty garden, it is a necessity.
This is a good time to amend the soil in beds that may need it. You can do a soil test to see what nutrients might be lacking, according to what you are going to plant. The county extension office is a great resource for any scale gardener, whether you have a very small home garden or are a commercial grower. If you are not using this valuable support, you should definitely look into it.
Now is the time to spiff things up. Replace any broken stones or edging that may be damaged or missing. Or you could even add a new bed. Raised beds are very popular and may be just the thing for you to try this year. They can be made to any size and depth you need and can be placed anywhere, according to your plants’ needs.
If you think you simply MUST plant something, begin seeds inside for whatever early crops you want to grow. Things like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. Lettuce does best in cooler weather as well. I have a great spot in my utility room with southern exposure so I can get a head start on things and not have to buy from the nursery or greenhouse. If you are an heirloom seed collector, you already know about this. Many places only stock the most popular varieties. So if you want to grow an obscure tomato, for instance, you will have to locate seeds and start them on your own.
If you plan to make your own flowering hanging baskets or patio pots, late winter or early spring is the time to start those seeds, if you have a warm space for them. They will need time to grow and fill out before putting them outside to brighten your yard, so start them early.
Sometimes the weather just doesn’t cooperate. Those are the times I gather up my seed catalogs and gardening books and retire to my chair with a cup of hot cocoa. There is nothing quite like setting in front of a roaring fire, sipping a warm drink, and daydreaming about what marvelous things I want to plant this year!
One thing is true, though: as surely as spring follows winter, it will be here before we know it! Make sure you don’t daydream too long!
What are your favorite plants to grow? Are you a container gardener, like me? Do you have a large garden? Or are you just beginning to embrace the rather addictive joy of gardening?