Spring has sprung and for many, this is a time of preparation and planting for the year ahead. For an experienced gardener, this early spring weather and seasoned techniques means that we can get our gardens going a little quicker this year. However, for the beginner gardener, we have outlined some of our favourite trade secrets to help you get the outdoor garden you’ve always dreamed.
Ensure Your Tools are Sharp and Organized
Luck favours the prepared and if you’re a first time gardener, or someone that suffers from a black thumb, you should work towards being as prepared as possible. Prepare your garden toolkit and source what may be missing. Gardening without the proper tools can lead to less than optimal results.
Next you need to maintain the tools. Over the winter, the tools that are sitting in your shed are likely to have been exposed to cold, damp air. This can cause oxidation of the metals and cracks in the plastic. For anything that can’t be repaired (like broken plastic handles), you’ll need to purchase or make a new tool. This is why seasoned gardeners tend to favour sturdy metal tools with wooden handles, as they can be maintained more easily and are therefore wasted less often.
When you try to penetrate soil with a blunt tool, it’s similar to bludgeoning the ground, which causes disruptive vibrations through the ground, as well as killing more tiny microorganisms than necessary. Similarly, trying to trim your plants with blunt pruners will leave more damage on the tree, as it tears through the stem or branch rather than cleanly slicing it.
For you as a gardener, you’ll find that blunt tools are far harder to use, resulting in stress on the muscles. Anyone who has worked with a dull tool can attest to what a literal pain in the neck it is!
Plan It Out Before Taking Action
Over the winter, your garden or land may have changed dramatically. Make note of the changes you observe and adjust your garden strategy accordingly. For example, if there is now a slope in your land, perhaps planting annuals, perennials, herbs or veggies that prefer more water build up at the bottom of that slope is a good idea.
Taking your observations on water flow, wind, sun coverage, shade and soil erosion and incorporating them into your garden design for this season will allow you to have optimal yields year round. Working with nature rather than against it will result in more success this year.
Using the Old, To Create New
If you had a garden last year, you hopefully planted ground cover prior to winter to use as a nice mulch leading into this spring. If this is your first garden or you missed that step last year, not to worry. What you can do is layer the ground with clippings, manure or collected plant debris from the yard leftover from winter and use that as your base. Another way of doing this is by trimming what remains in your garden from last year and using the clippings as this first layer of mulch.
For anyone that has previously planted tree’s or large flowering shrubs, this will be the optimal time to prune. For some, cutting away branches or dead leaves may seem counterintuitive but by trimming disfigured, dead or diseased branches, you will promote new healthy growth on your plants.
Build Your Beds and Mulch
We recommend using the raised and sunken method when building your planting beds if what you’re planting is going straight into the ground. Digging out a bed and then using that soil to create a higher, raised planting bed next to the sunken bed is the best use of resources and available earth. This bed building method is advantageous because it allows you to plant with the seasons strategically. In the wetter months (early spring) you’ll want to fill up your raised beds to avoid flooding. While in the dryer months, you’ll reverse the planting to collect water in the troughs.
As previously mentioned, mulch will be an important aspect of your garden as it will increase the health of your soil. Soil health will be the number one dictator of a healthy, thriving garden. Mulch will add fertilization, water retention, and insulation during colder months
Plant Your Veggies Early...
Some vegetables need to be planted early as they need the colder weather to germinate. Here are a few edible plants to get you going in the early months of spring.
- Potatoes - Potatoes like to be planted in early spring but they won’t germinate until the soil temperature reaches 45F.
- Leafy greens - Rocket, kale, lettuce, chard, and spinach are better planted earlier as they tend to bolt quickly if planted in the warmer months, going to seed almost instantly.
- Peas - Traditionally, the first peas were planted on St Patrick’s Day. Start them in a cold frame and you’ll be taking advantage of three-dimensional planting space as they climb.
- Rhubarb - Rhubarb is a perennial plant with huge leaves that shelter the soil and work well for chop and drop mulch. If you want to divide the rhubarb as it grows, do this while it is young otherwise the crown becomes very tough and difficult to separate.
- Asparagus - Asparagus is another perennial that is super healthy and gets more productive each year.
- Crucifers - The cabbage family can be planted early and can handle relatively cold temperatures. This includes broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.
And A Few Early Flowers As Well:
- Crocus - nicely suited for plant hardiness zones 3-8, the crocus will create a beautiful colourful layer of ground cover for your garden. Good drainage, lots of sun and slightly acidic soil will help these plants thrive.
- Early Blooming Dwarf Iris - This plant does well in zones 5-9, slightly fragrant, grown in clusters and growing in dark to light blue or purple. This flowering shoot drains well and requires, slight sun or partial shade.
- Single Early Tulip - The classic tulip, blooms early in the spring, colours include orange, pink, yellow, white, red and purple. Tulips do best in full sun and slightly acidic soil.
In short, if you want to make the most out of your garden and watch it thrive, you need to get into action now. Spring brings all the opportunities you'll need to start a prosperous and diverse garden. By starting early, you can prepare your tools and land to ensure you have everything ready to go as you plant in stages across the spring months.