Spring will officially arrive in 51 days; are you prepared? Most gardeners are probably ready for the warmer weather at least, but the season has a tendency to arrive in a hurry and turn planning and preparation into spontaneous action. Now is a good time to make a to-do list, peruse seed and plant catalogs, draw up designs or plans, and gather supplies.
To-do lists can be broken into short-term and long-term projects or plans. For example, a short list for the landscape might include cleaning up perennials, raking leaves out of shrubs, pruning roses and putting on a fresh layer of mulch. A bigger project list might include removing a large tree or shrub, changing the shape of a flower bed or adding a water feature.
For the vegetable garden, spring cleanup probably includes removal of any remaining plants, adding compost, and tilling. Fruit trees should be pruned in February before spring really arrives, and small fruit such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries may need pruning or care depending on the variety and how they are being grown.
Long-term or larger projects in the fruit and vegetable garden could be building raised beds, amending the soil per soil test results to create a more favorable growing environment, and adding square footage or plants to the growing space.
Lawns deserve a little love in the spring too, but leave fertilization off the list. Spring fertilizer applications encourage vigorous shoot growth instead of roots, meaning the grass will need more mowing and will be less drought tolerant when summer arrives. If the lawn is irrigated, use a slow release fertilizer in mid-May. Otherwise, wait until September for cool-season grasses and June for warm-season zoysiagrass and bermudagrass.
Seed and plant catalogs are good for inspiration and can be good sources of new or unusual crops. Burpee, Gurney, and Park Seed are old standbys that you might remember from your parents’ or grandparents’ selections. Current local favorites include Seeds From Italy (the U.S. distributor is here in Lawrence), Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Mansfield, Mo.), and Seed Savers Exchange (Decorah, Iowa). Free copies of all of these can be requested on individual company websites, as well as from many other seed companies.
For ornamental plants, check out catalogs from Skinner Garden Store in Topeka and Arnold’s Greenhouse (Arnold’s Plant Wishbook) in Leroy, Kansas.
If you are installing a new landscape or garden area, re-doing an old one, or making the most of your vegetable garden space, a design or plan is a good idea. Be courageous with graph paper and a tape measure to outline the space on paper. Then use the mature size of the plants you plan to include to reserve space within the outline. This is a great way to prevent having tomato plants so close together that they are impossible to pick, or having to remove large shrubs later because they are growing over the top of each other.
If sketching up something for the garden seems dubious, hire a professional. You can still do the planting yourself if you wish.
Garden supplies will become more and more abundant in the coming weeks. Is it time for a new pair of garden gloves? Were you waiting to replace the shovel that broke last fall? You might want new flowerpots, tomato cages, a bird bath, etc. Make a list, check it twice, and accept that you will remember something else you need only after you actually start gardening.