Early spring can be a time of excitement and release, when the temperatures finally warm up after a long and grueling winter. But if you have a green thumb, early spring might fill you with a sense of dread if you haven’t quite prepared your garden for spring planting. Don’t succumb to garden guilt. Here are five easy tips to get your container or community garden in tip-top shape for the spring planting season.
In the Weeds
If you’ve found that patches of weeds are beginning to grow in your garden, remove them and dispose of them carefully. Pulling or tearing at certain weeds like couch grass causes the roots to spread, so dig them out with a turning fork or trowel. Do not place the weeds in a compost pile, as you won’t want to accidentally spread the seeds around your garden. Once the weeds are clear, do a thorough clean up by removing leaves and other debris from the beds and borders.
Get the Dirt
Check your soil’s pH levels using a home soil test kit, which you can find at many home improvement or garden stores. Take samples from different areas of the garden to make sure it is balanced. Adding sulfur will lower the pH level, while adding ground limestone will raise the pH. Once the soil is properly balanced, borrow or rent a rototiller to loosen the soil. If you have particularly rocky soil, the tilling process might take longer.
A Bug’s Life
Identifying and removing garden pests now can save you a lot of trouble later on in the planting and harvesting season. If you have perennial crops, take a close look at the crowns of the plants and you just might find slugs, snails, aphids and other garden pests hiding out for the winter. If you’re averse to using pesticides on your crops, there are several ways to rid your garden of pests organically. Planting garlic or spraying your garden with a garlic spray, made from chopped garlic cloves and water mixed well, deters most insects. Most bugs, like ladybugs, ants and beetles, are harmless and protect your garden by eating other bugs.
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Cover bare soil with three to six inches of organic matter, like compost, which acts as a slow-release fertilizer and provides much-needed nutrients to soil and plants to keep them healthy. Good compost improves soil structure by improving aeration and moisture retention, providing humus and increasing microbial activity. Avoid artificial and chemical fertilizers, which don’t benefit the soil in the long-term. If you don’t have a compost pile, you can often purchase odor-free composted manure at local gardening stores for a low price.
Plan Your Plants
The final step is planning where to plant your crops. Create a diagram of your garden and determine what vegetables and flowers you want to plant where, keeping in mind pH levels and areas of sunlight. Common early spring vegetables are peas, spinach, lettuces and leeks. Cold weather annual flowers include pansies, violas, calendula and sweet peas.