Here are some spring garden chores you can do now
Safe vegetables in this time of uncertainty would be a comfort to most of us, I think. I know it is to me. Even if you have never grown a garden before maybe I can help. It’s still too early in most parts of the country here in the USA for planting most plants outside. The growing season is very long here so we can usually plant fairly early. It is important, however, to know what your growing season is and when the last frost is in your area. But, there are spring chores that can be done in the garden besides planting. So, grab your garden tools and we’ll get some chores done!
To turn the soil
Hopefully, you’ve picked up a shovel or hoe and a steel rake. You will need a rototiller if your ground hasn’t been turned over or used for a garden in several years. Actually, it’s nice to have one for spring garden chores because what you’ll need to do is dig down about 6 inches and turn the ground over. It’s possible to do this in softer ground with a shovel or a steel hoe but it can be a very hard job. You may be able to find someone in your area who can do this for you. We have clay soil here at our place and it tends to be very hard and heavy. I can’t turn it with a shovel even of it’s been turned the year before. We have a rototiller and a tractor to do this for us but we turn a very large area and have three areas we’ve turned for gardens this year. We usually do two areas but this year I’m very excited because I’m finally getting an herb garden just outside my kitchen!
To NOT turn the soil
Sometimes doing the chore of turning the soil isn’t possible. The good news is, that there are gardeners now that are not turning the ground before planting. They feel that opening the soil and exposing the weed seeds to the sun causes more weeds to grow. I have no experience in this method so I can’t give you any advice on that. I love to see the ground turned and smell the fresh earth ready for my plants. This is one of my favorite things in the world! I also love the feel of the earth in my hands and I have a very personal OCD thing about planting in fresh ground with no old weeds. This is just my preference, but you can decide this for yourself. I wanted you to know that this is an option if you can’t turn your ground. I will warn you that it would be necessary to trim everything real low first and mulch well around your plants if you don’t plan to turn your soil.
Amending the soil
This is a huge subject and I am only going to touch on it. When you are amending your soil, there are several different things that need to be addressed . One of the first things to look at is the pH of the soil. Measuring the pH tells us its acidity. This is important especially if the range is in the severe acid range or the severe alkaline range. Most soils are in what is considered the normal range. You can plant without checking this and see how it goes. If you really want to do it right, you should understand why it’s important to add this to your spring chore list and how to change the pH. You can read more about understanding pH of soil at Dave’s Garden which is my favorite resource for gardening here.
Secondly, you need nutrition for the soil. You can spend a lot of money on fertilizers but my favorite is to use here is compost. We make our own compost here and I have found this to be the best for the soil. Not only does it benefit the soil’s nutrition, but it also helps amend the clay and will improve the composition in any type of soil. Compost consists of any plant type scraps that comes from your kitchen, whether cooked or not, weeds and cuttings from your plants. These are considered “green” additives for compost. Shredded paper, brown leaves or cardboard would be considered “brown”. The idea is for the combination to reach a high temperature and break down into usable additives for your plants. Learn more about compost here. Worms are great in compost and they love it. They will help to break it down. Their waste is called “castings” and are very beneficial to the soil. You can buy castings or compost at the garden store or online which would be an easy way to amend your soil. They are sustainable and natural with no chemicals added. I bought some castings online this year so I’m anxious to let you know how it goes. All you do is work it into the soil! Any natural plant materials are beneficial to the soil so don’t worry too much about it and dig in!!
Planting early seeds
Like I said earlier, we are fortunate to have a very long planting season. It’s so long we actually have two growing seasons- summer and fall. I am guilty of not taking advantage of this over the years, but I’m hoping to plant a fall garden this year. Because of this long season, we are usually able to start our spring chores in February and plant some things outside in March. We planted carrots and peas a week ago. But most importantly I wanted to talk about planting some things indoors. It’s best if you can give your indoor plants approximately six weeks to mature before putting them in the ground outside. I usually just buy a fairly large bag of potting soil and put my seeds in it according to the recommendations on the back of the seed pack. We mostly plant tomatoes, peppers, onions and some herbs indoors. You can use anything to plant them in and the containers don’t have to be very big. I’ve used small disposable paper cups in the past. I also save pots from plants I’ve bought. (Be sure to clean recycled pots before using them with bleach water and rinse well to kill bacteria that might remain in them) I bought these trays (in the picture) this year that you can just tear apart and plant the entire pot in the soil. I usually will break open the bottom of each one as I put it in the soil to let the roots move through easier. The pot itself will decompose in the soil so you have no plastic to throw away. That’s a win in my book!
I know this may be a lot to learn if you’re new to gardening but if this is something that is important to you, then please…. just do it. Plant something in the soil or in a pot. Just give it a try. There is so much to learn about gardening that I think it’s a never ending process anyway. You can grow something. You can have safe, homegrown vegetables for your family.