It’s still too early to plant your garden. But there’s still lots to do to get ready for this year’s garden. While you’re waiting for the weather to warm up, you can be getting ready for a great gardening season with these seven spring gardening chores:
Test your soil and add nutrients if needed
A soil test will tell you your soil’s pH (which is key to a plant’s nutrient uptake) and will indicate any soil nutrient deficiencies. This is especially important to do when you first start a garden bed. But as you garden, some plants can deplete the soil’s nutrients, especially if you do not regularly add compost, so you should retest your soil every 5-8 years or if plant size and garden productivity begin to drop off.
There are several labs that will test your soil, but my first choiceis our local Extension Service. It only costs $18, compared to most labs which charge $25-30. Check with your local Extension Service–yours may even provide this service for free.
Remove debris and dead plants
Even if you cleared out your beds last fall, winter still leaves a lot of trash behind. Clean out fallen branches, leaves and other debris that have accumulated over the winter months.
Weed out the early spring weeds
You will be racing all summer long against the weeds trying to overtake your garden. You can get a head start if you will clear out all the beds of the first weeds that grow in the spring. It’s easier to do when perennial plants have not yet emerged or are still small.
Prune bushes and trees
Every winter the rabbits chew on the tender branches of our trees and bushes. Winter storms break branches. Prune those and other damaged branches to prevent the spread of disease. This is also the time to prune unwanted branches on your fruit trees.
Divide and mulch perennials
The best time to divide your perennials is in early spring, when the plants are still small and manageable. This will give them all summer to establish a strong root system in their new home. After dividing, mulch around your perennials.
Get your tools ready
Sharp tools are a gardener’s best friend. Sharpen shovels and hoes, scour off any rust and coat them with a non-toxic protective oil, like linseed oil, which protects both the metal tool and the wood handle.
Clean off trellises and plant supports
Plant material from last year’s garden and soil left on your plant supports may harbor soil pathogens that can damage this year’s crop. Scrub supports and trellises with a metal brush and hose off the loosened dirt. Then dip them in a disinfecting solution of 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. Allow to air dry before putting them back in the garden.
There. You now have a great start to the gardening season.