It’s not too early to start planning your spring garden now, and we have some great tips to get you started.
The first step, of course, is to decide what kind of a garden you want – flowers, herbs, vegetables or some combination of the three. If this will be your first garden, you’ll need to do some research to determine the amount of sunlight that reaches each portion of your yard, and then determine the best plants to grow for the areas which need full sunlight, full shade, or a combination of both (note that full sunlight generally means about six hours of sunlight daily).
Once you decide which plants you want, you’ll need to determine, for each type, the germination time (how long the plant takes to come out of the seed shell and start growing roots), the last frost date for your area, when seedlings can be planted in the ground, and the time to full maturity of the plant. Add up the total time, then calculate backwards to determine the best time to start your seeds from scratch. For example, if you want to plant your seedlings during the long weekend in May (Patriot’s day falls on May 22nd this year), and your plant requires 10 weeks between seed planting indoors and transplanting outdoors, then your need to already have started your seeds indoors in mid-March. It’s not too late, of course, but a later start time means that your harvesting dates will be later as well.
Test your soil’s drainage, which is the soil’s ability to absorb moisture and allow the excess water to be drained away. We found this gem on marthastewart.com:
“You can test soil drainage by digging a hole a foot deep and a foot across. Fill the hole with water, and time how long it takes the water to drain away; two or three hours after the hole has emptied, refill it, and again time the interval it takes for it to empty. Then calculate the rate of drainage by dividing the total depth of the water (24 inches) by the total number of hours it took for the hole to empty two times. An average rate of an inch of water lost per hour makes a ‘well-drained’ soil, which is best for vegetable plants. A substantially faster rate is typical of a ‘sharply drained’ soil, one that dries out quickly, and unless enriched with water-retaining compost, is suitable mainly for drought-tolerant plants. Drainage markedly slower than an inch per hour indicates poorly drained soil, which will probably drown the roots of most plants.”
When planning your spring garden, your design must take into consideration the size of each plant at full maturity, so that you can ensure that the space you have accommodates all plants at maturity.
When your garden plan has been drawn out (ideally on paper first), you can begin preparing the soil by turning it over in advance, digging to a depth of 6 – 12 inches. Add compost or other organic matter. When the soil starts to dry in the spring, rake the soil area, add some organic fertilizer, then rake again. Be sure to remove any excess stones and any weeds. Transplant your seedlings as soon as it is warm enough, and your garden is done!