I need to talk gardening. We’re currently in the midst of a weeks-long stretch of sub-freezing temperatures, have been buried in snow for months, and I haven’t seen anything green since last year. I know, I know, it’s February and it’s Ohio. I’ve lived here my whole life, so I know what to expect.
But around this time each year, that cabin fever starts to take hold. The seeds have all been ordered, this year’s bed layouts have all been planned, it’s no longer dark before 5 o’clock… now I just need it to warm up about 60 degrees.
Unfortunately, that’s still a good month, maybe two, away, but while you’re waiting, there are still a number of things you can do to prepare your garden for spring planting.
Resist The Urge To Play In The Dirt
I know how tempting it can be to go out and start digging as soon as the snow melts and the thermometer hits 60. Don’t!
Late winter and early spring is just about the wettest your garden will be – all that snow just melted and it hasn’t seen a hot, dry day in over six months. Traipsing around in the garden is probably the worst thing you can do – that wet soil will compact like crazy, then when it finally does dry out, it may as well be concrete. Not exactly the light, fluffy stuff your plants like. So no walking (or at least make sure you stay between rows) and no digging!
Start Some Seeds Inside
This is one of my favorite times on the gardening calendar. I retreat to the basement, get the heat mat and grow lights brushed off, then stick those first few seeds in the soil. There’s something very therapeutic about it. And of course, you can grow varieties that you’d never find at your local garden center.
If you’ve never started your own seeds, here are a few posts to help you get started.
Clean Up The Gardens
If you didn’t quite get those last few tomato skeletons or corn stalks out before the snows hit, now’s your chance. Pull out any leftover plants from the prior season (especially since these can harbor disease and overwintering pests). Pick up any sticks or large piles of leaves that may have fallen. Just tidy things up a bit. And remember, try not to walk in the planting area too much as this will cause major soil compaction (another great reason to grow in raised beds!).
Get Your Tools Ready
The last thing you want is to go out in May with a bag full of seeds, ready to plant, and find that you forgot that your rake is missing three tines. Or you left the trowel outside all winter and now it’s just a rusty mess.
Use this calm before the storm as an opportunity to take an inventory of your tools. Does something need to be fixed? Cleaned? Scrapped and a new one found?
Check Your Garden Structures
Fences, gates, and trellises all play a key role in the garden, and now’s the time to make sure everything’s in prime condition.
You don’t want to discover that hole in the fence after the groundhog has eaten your first lettuce sowing. And if you need to cut a few saplings for a new trellis or teepee, you want to do it now, and not when your beans are already trying to climb up their neighbors (speaking from experience…).
So I know the urge is there to get out and get going, but at this time of year, there’s still a little more waiting that needs to happen before you can truly get your hands dirty. But in the meantime, there are many things that you can be doing to prepare your garden for a successful growing season!