One of the best parts of Spring is getting ready to garden. While I haven't really gardened much in the past few years, I grew up helping out in the family garden. I miss the smell of the soil and the feeling of growing and tending to the plants, a future meal. Gardening is a relaxing and enjoyable activity, but it's also hard work. If only it were as simple as plotting out a space and throwing some seed down. Unfortunately, that isn't the case, and a good garden requires plenty of planning and preparation. Spring is just around the corner – here are 5 steps to get your garden ready.
Prepare Your Garden Space
If you have a space from the previous year there are a few things you can do early to prepare for Spring. Make sure all old plants are pulled and removed. Go through and remove sticks, rocks, or any other items that may get in the way when it's time to plant. When the ground thaws, till the soil under and add some compost to prepare your soil.
If this is your first garden, spend plenty of time evaluating potential spots. Check for sunlight, proper drainage, and ease of access to water.
Gather Your Tools
Spring is a great time to gather your tools and make sure you have everything you need. Shovels, spades, rakes, gloves, and a kneeling pad are all essentials we store in a little shed right by the garden. If you have a tiller check it and make sure it's in good working order.
Ensure that you have items like stakes, tomato cages, and marking materials on hand. It's also nice to have a couple of watering cans and a good, long garden hose with a multi-set sprayer. If you use a sprinkler system, it's a good idea to check that in advance as well.
Test the Soil
Test the pH level of your soil before planting your garden. A simple kit is inexpensive and will let you know if you need to further prepare your soil. Ideally, your garden's soil should maintain a pH level between 5 and 7 to support the most plant varieties. Once you know what your soil is lacking you can use additives like organic compost to bring it into balance. If you need to use soil additives and you want an organic garden, you should consult an organic gardening specialist in your area to help you.
Start Seeds Early
Growing plants from seeds can be tough at first until you get the hang of it, but once you figure out what works best it's a lot of fun and much less expensive than buying plants. Seed trays are sold all over and can be a great way to start seed, but you need to have enough sunlight and warmth for them to do well. There are seed trays with grow lights on the cover available. They are more expensive, but they make growing plants from seed much easier.
Guard Your Garden
Get an early start on pest defense. Pests come in all shapes and sizes from tiny little bugs to rabbits, raccoons, birds, and deer. Having a fenced in garden can deter some of the larger pests. To scare birds, I use pie tins tied to stakes that I move around periodically. The sunlight reflects off of them and they make a lot of noise in the wind. It does a good job scaring birds and even rabbits and squirrels. I also plant marigolds in with my garden, they deter several forms of insects.
Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. We introduced a praying mantis to our garden. You can buy an egg case and place it in a sunny location. Wait for it to hatch and then spread the babies around your garden area. Mantis' will feed on grasshoppers, beetles, wasps and other pests without harming your plants.
A great garden depends on solid preparation. Planning a great space, prepping the soil and getting an early start on pest control will help ensure your growing season is a good one.