Planning for Spring

May 24, 2011

This my my 3rd column for the Zenith, I guess I should have posted this two months ago when it ran.

I am so ready for spring.  But with this much snow on the ground I’m wondering just how long it is going to be before I can actually get out there and work the soil.


Last year March came and went like a lamb and April was a nice slow and steady warm up. By mid April I was ready to get out there and get my hands dirty.  This spring, we may not be so lucky.


The general rule of thumb is that the soil must be dry enough to fall apart when you clump it in your hand.  If you have a big mud ball going on–wait.  Oh, it’s safe to pull out some dead weeds or even new weeds and grasses, but don’t even think about working your perennials.  They are still utilizing all that water to prepare themselves for the new season, and most of them don’t like to be disturbed or even uncovered when there is still a chance of frost, so let the sun come out and warm up your plants and the soil for a few weeks before you start.


So what can an anxious gardener do this time of year?


If you haven’t started them yet, go ahead and get your indoor starter plants going.  But please keep in mind that the most important step in starting your plants indoors, is timing.  You want to make sure you time the germination of your seedlings right so that by the time they are ready to transplant into the ground, the ground temp will be warm enough to sustain them.  If you start too early you may end up with a leggy, tangled mess. So pay special attention as to which crops can go in colder soil, like broccoli or cabbage and which ones need the soil warm, like tomatoes and annuals, and adjust your planting times accordingly. Colder crops can handle a frost. With warm soil crops it is best to wait until the soil reaches about 65-70 degrees.  But remember, you have to harden off your new plants before they can go in the ground.  It could be June before you can do that, so have patience and watch your growing times for each variety.



Some of you may already have the supplies you need to get your seedlings growing, but some of you may be starting from scratch, so let me address the things you will need.


Firstly, space.  You are going to need a dedicated space to grow your seedlings.  A sturdy shelf works great.  But maybe more importantly, you are going to need lights.  Industrial-type florescent tube lighting is ideal for growing indoors.  These are going to need to be hung over the seed trays on an adjustable chain so that you can raise the lights as the seedlings grow taller. Then you are going to need seed trays, look for the types that have bottom-watering capability, they seem to yeild the best results.  You can find many that already come loaded with a decent loamy soil.  And of course you are going to need seeds. I like to focus on annuals as they can be quite costly to buy in mass as starter plants. And lastly you will need dedication.  Because you are going to have to water those seeds daily, give them alot of light, and make adjustments to the height of the lights as they grow.


I’ve had both good and bad luck starting indoors. The years that I really paid attention and made sure they were checked every day, the seedlings did pretty well.  The years I had a busy schedule and didn’t get to my plants daily, well you can guess what happened.


For a first-timer, do your research before you start. Know the up-front costs involved, as well as, the light, time and water requirements for your particular seeds.  This can be a fun project to get the whole family involved. Everyone can help in taking care of the seedlings.  And who knows, growing your own vegetables may just be the way you can finally get your kids to eat them.



If starting seeds seems a bit to much for some, you can take this time of year to plan your garden beds instead.  If you are starting a new bed, think of a snow-filled yard as a blank canvas.  Grab a stick, put on your boots and go play in the yard.  Draw out your garden borders in the snow.  How do you like the size, and location?  Will it get enough sun?  How does it fit in with the rest of the landscape?  What is the natural flow of traffic in that spot?  If the kids are used to running through the yard there, maybe it would be better suited off to the side where it won’t be mistakenly trampled.  It’s a fun way to visualize your project.


What else can you do this time of year?


This is a perfect time to go through your existing supplies, toss broken tools and expired chemicals. Or clean up your tools, organize them and clean out last year’s pots.  Make a list of what you need, and take advantage of early sales to get things like edging, soil amendments, mulch, fertilizer, start up juice, tools…buy these items a few at a time so you don’t break the bank all at once.


Now I might be alone here, but I have actually drawn a scale “floor-plan” of my yard. It’s proven to be a very helpful tool.  Because in March, when I’m gazing out my window, it’s hard to tell where all my borders are under a foot or two of snow.  Having a “land-plan” gives me a guideline to work from.  It shows me where I have available area to workand gives me an overall birdseye view of my lot.  I also keep a list of plants and a general layout of where I’ve planted them so I’m able to plan my next addition sitting at my dining table.


You can also take some time to do a little research on some of the new plants and hybrids on the market now. There have been great strides made in perennials.  Many are proliferous bloomers, low maintenence and disease resistant.  You will find many new varieties of roses, shrub roses and hydrangeas as well as cone flowers and day lillies.  Why just those few plants alone could have you in bloom all season long.


Think Spring!



One Response to “Planning for Spring”
  1. Daouane says:

    i just wanted to make a quick comment to say i’m glad i found your blog. thanks.

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