Spring garden maintenance and preparation is our opportunity to get back out there and reconnect with the earth!
April could be the gardener’s most anticipated month of the year. We watch and wait for those first bulbs to emerge from a long winter’s nap. When the hyacinth and crocuses appear, we know that irises, forsythia and lilacs are not far behind. It is the nature of things – it is how we can be certain spring has truly arrived.
Seed Starting Resources
If you are planning to start plants from seed, now is the perfect time to plan and prepare your seedlings. Most plants started from seed take at least 6 weeks to germinate and to be safe, you won’t want to plant annuals outdoors until Memorial Day. Timing is important as some seeds may require more time with a soaking period and likewise, starting seeds too early can affect their success.
First decide which plants you want to grow, making sure the varieties you choose will thrive in your hardiness zone. Check the package for planting instructions and recommended germination periods. Purchase your seeds from a reliable source that provides a product guarantee. Your local garden center is an excellent resource for seed purchase. They not only offer locally viable seeds and growing supplies, but you will also benefit from expert guidance with in-person customer service. If you choose to order online or through a catalog, choose a reputable seed company that offers a written guarantee.
The UNH Cooperative Extension advocates four key environmental factors that affect germination success: water, oxygen, light and heat. Check out their Starting Plants Indoors from Seed guide for detailed and easy to follow instructions with ideas on how to DIY containers and your grow mix!
The Old Farmer’s Almanac remains a good friend to the gardener with a great line-up of information.
Use their Frost Calculator to get last frost dates for your town and count backward to time your seed starting. This site will also provide a reference calendar for planting the 30 most popular vegetables, herbs, and fruit.
Spring Garden Maintenance
With temperatures warming and days getting longer, look for opportunity to get out and begin clearing debris from the garden. If you have a vegetable garden, this is the time to pull weeds and turn the soil.
With the exception of woody plants (like hydrangea) and evergreens, cut back any dead stalks leftover from the fall.
Perennials will be sprouting soon and raking before their tender leaves appear will avoid any damage to foliage. Next is the fun part…pull any weeds that have sneaked in since your fall clean up.
If you have not fertilized in the last year or two, your beds will benefit from a spring feeding. Whenever possible, we suggest organic fertilizer, especially for vegetable gardens. Your local garden center or garden supply store will offer a ready compost material that can be purchased by the truckload, and can often be delivered. Alternatively, a basic and inexpensive chemical fertilizer with a higher middle number (10-15-10 or 5-10-5), will promote stem strength and vigorous blooms as well as any of the fancy brands.
After fertilizing, take the time to put a fresh edge on your beds. Edging makes it easier to pull and remove the stray grass that has grown into your bed border, it helps avoid run off to keep fresh mulch in place and will give your gardens a tidy, well kept look. Now add 2-3″ of bark mulch to minimize weeds and keep soil cool and moist during the peak of the summer.
My Pro Tip:
As spring and early summer blooming perennials begin to emerge, this is a good time to divide these plants. Before leaves fully unfurl and gain height, dig around the root ball, pop them out and split into 2 or 4 sections. Organize a swap with your fellow gardening friends to share your divisions. This is a great way to add new and proven varieties to your garden for free. The plants you each gain in the garden also serve as a perennial reminder of the beauty of your friendships!
See you at Studleys!