Getting the garden ready for spring
The groundhog has spoken.
Garden season is still about 6 weeks away, but it’s the perfect time to start making preparations. Here are some tips for a bumper crop year!
Remember: your soil is an investment. You get out of it what you put into it. So, to keep a garden plot producing year after year, quality should be continually added to the soil in the forms of:
If you didn’t mulch your garden with organic materials like leaves, compost and/or manure after the last growing season, start now! At this point, leaves may break down a little slower than you’d like, so try turning some other forms of nitrogen (like the aforementioned compost or manure) into the top layer of soil. Not only will this help to improve the plot’s fertility–providing both fast and slow release food sources for plants–it will reintroduce the beneficial micro-organisms that are conducive to plant health. You could also sow a cover crop, like winter rye or clover, which can be raked back into the plot in a couple months to add additional nitrogen into the soil.
- texture (aeration)
A good soil is light, airy, and drains well. And let’s face it, our Colorado alkaline soils tend to be just the opposite: hard, clay-like, and compacted. Achieving a good plot requires constant maintenance, season after season. By adding conditioners such as peat moss, coco coir, vermiculite and pumice stone on a regular basis, a gardener can maintain a soil that’s about 30 percent air, which is the perfect threshold for plant roots to get optimal access to the water and air they need to thrive.
Getting started on soil early and maintaining it regularly will make your job much easier when the growing season comes around!
A productive garden has its crops rotated on a regular schedule to keep nutrients available in the soil and to prevent pests and diseases. If you grew tomatoes in a certain part of the garden last season, chances are they’ve used up many of the tomato-specific nutrients in that area. Try moving them to another part of the garden (ideally with the same or more sun exposure as the year prior) and planting something else there of a different family.
Check out this great article about rotating crops based on vegetable families.
Start seeds indoors
Typically, most seeds should be started inside before the first of March. Make sure to use clean containers (if reusing starter pots or trays, wash them out with a mild solution of bleach) and a good seed starting mix, which is lighter than regular soil and will allow new, tender roots to form.
Heating mats will typically help the germination process, as will making sure you keep the seeds moist. Use a spray bottle to moisten the top layer of soil covering the seeds at least once daily, and more often if it dries out quicker. Some growers like to put a cover on their starter pots and trays to keep some of the moisture from escaping.
Some seeds, like tomatoes, parsley, coriander and fennel, need to germinate in the dark. Others, like lettuce, dill and celery, like the light. Once sprouted though, all seedlings should be moved to either a sunny window or positioned about 3 inches under a grow light that’s kept on for 14-16 hours per day, followed by a dark period of 6-8 hours (a break from the light is just as necessary for the plants to develop correctly).
When the seedlings start to develop their true leaves, they can be fertilized with a mild solution, such as liquid kelp.
Here are a few guidelines for when to start seeds indoors:
- January 15: artichokes
- February 20: lettuces, spinach, kale
- March 1: eggplant, celery, leeks, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage
- April 1: tomatoes
- April 10: basil, annual flowers
If transplanting, make sure you harden off the plants a couple weeks before they are set to move outside permanently. Do this by placing seedlings outside for an hour or two a day, and gradually lengthening their exposure outdoors for 6 to 8 hours per day, and bringing them in at night when temperatures dip.
Lost your edge?
We’ve got you covered. Get the tools ready!
Bring in your spades, hoes, pruners, loppers, trimmers, axes, hatchets, lawn mower blades to our Shop for sharpening, and go into this season with the right tools for the right jobs!
**Have a lawnmower that needs to be serviced?
Beat the April and May rush, and bring it in now! We are a full Honda and Husqvarna dealer, specializing in service and parts, and we work on other brands, too!