The spring growing season is almost upon us and for some, it is not as long as we’d like it to be. Get a head start by preparing your garden and seedlings now. Below find some ideas for the most common types of gardens:
Prepping the Vegetable Garden
Most vegetables want a nice warm soil to start sprouting, but you can achieve the desired temperature and conditions before it’s technically time to start planting. Here are a few tips:
- Make a garden plan. Draw out your plot and plan which vegetables you’d like to plant where. Make sure you have an idea of how much space each species needs to grow.
- Go shopping. Buy your compost, fertilizer, and seeds beforehand. A soil thermometer can be very handy as well if you’re planting early.
- Prepare the soil. Use a hoe, rake, or claw to pull up rocks and weeds, then turn up the soil for the first 6-10 inches in a new garden or the first 3-4 inches in an established garden. Next, add in your compost and mix it into the top few inches of soil. You can do this up to two weeks before planting.
- If you prefer to start seeds indoors, go ahead and plant them in a germination potting soil up to six weeks before the last frost date in your area. This will give you a generous jump start on growing season.
- Ensure a healthy soil temperature. Most vegetables prefer a soil temperature of 60ºF or more to start sprouting. If you’re ready to plant your seeds outdoors but find the temperature 5 or 10 degrees too cold, you can “solarize” the soil by placing a thin sheet of transparent plastic over the garden for a week before planting. After planting the seeds, replace the plastic if needed for up to one week more to create a favorable germination temperature.
Prepping the Flower Garden
Flower planting varies greatly depending on the species. Bulbs may need to be planted long before seeds, for instance. See this checklist to get started:
1. Make a garden plan. The first step in any garden is to plan which kinds of plants you will grow. Flowers vary greatly in planting and germination times, so give yourself plenty of time.
2. Purchase your seeds and bulbs first thing. If planting early, go ahead and buy your compost and fertilizer, if needed, as well.
3. Clean up your garden, turning up the soil and embedding dead plant materials. This is also a good time to throw out any stones or weeds.
4. Prepare your seeds and summer bulbs. Although spring-flowering varieties would need to be planted in the fall or winter, you should plant your summer-flowering bulbs just after the last frost. If you’d like to get a head-start on seed flowers, germinate them indoors four to six weeks before the last frost and transplant them when the weather is turning warmer and all danger of frost has passed.
Watch out for disease and pests. There are a few preventative measures you can take to reduce the chances of harmful infestations:
- If your plants were struck by disease or fungus in the previous year, make sure to remove and discard them completely, including any roots you find.
- As new plants grow, remove any leaves or foliage that show signs of disease, or entire plants if necessary.
- Read your seed packages and care instructions carefully. Look for disease-resistant varieties and know how much water or sun your plants need.
- Don’t over-water or over-fertilize.
- Try all-natural pest-control methods. Planting marigolds, calendula, herbs, or borage around your garden can repel pests and attract beneficial bees and wasps. For mold or mildew, try a milk spray of 1 part milk and 7 parts water to treat the problem without killing beneficial insects and microorganisms.
Read more about gardening and a healthy lifestyle on the Living Clean blog: