The days are getting longer and the ground is getting warmer. If you’re like most of us, your fingers are itching to get back out there in the dirt and start gardening. However, with several weeks–months, in some areas–to go before that dream becomes a reality, now is the time to think about how you can jumpstart your garden before the season begins.
1. Start planning
The best gardens are those that are the result of careful planning and deliberate execution. Once May arrives, with its flurry of planting, tilling, mowing, and cultivating, it can be easy to lose sight of your plans for the growing months. While the landscape is still a blank, barren slate, flip through some gardening books and catalogues to get an idea of what, where, and how you want to plant. If you’re a visual person, make a blueprint or map of exactly where you want to plant each crop.
2. Begin thorough record-keeping
In the fall, you will likely be too busy reaping the fruits of your labor in harvest to spend time painstakingly annotating each detail. While it’s cold out, record notes about your ideas for next year, which seeds you purchased and at what price, and what varieties of plants you will be growing. This will save you time come November.
3. Evaluate and order seed stock
You may have some seeds leftover from last year, but now is a good time to go through old stock and get rid of any expired varieties. Make a list of seeds that need to be ordered, and then buy them. Now is also a great time to organize your seeds. A mason jar or small plastic tote is a great way to store your seeds and provide room for this year’s leftovers.
4. Clean and maintain your garden tools
This is especially true if you have any mechanical items, such as lawn mowers, weed whackers, or rototillers, which need to be serviced before the summer months. However, you shouldn’t neglect your regular maintenance with hand tools, either. Make sure they are all clean and free of rust. Sand handles that have splintered and rub oil into tools’ metal parts to prevent future rust. Repair or replace any tools that have seen better days.
5. Keep your compost going
Although cold weather slows decomposition, it is still possible to have an effective compost bin during the winter and early spring months. To make the most of winter “cooking,” alternate layers of brown and green (carbon and nitrogen) materials. Make sure all waste is finely shredded and cover open piles from rain with a tarp.
If you are hesitant about managing an outdoor compost bin during the winter time, consider feeding a worm compost bin throughout the winter months. Since these are kept indoors, they can break down kitchen scraps more quickly. You’ll end up with a smaller amount of fertilizer, but more quickly, and this will help you significantly as you start your seeds or early spring crops.
6. Build or repair any raised beds or other structures
Make sure all ditches are clear of debris and fix any trellises, fences, or beds. Early spring or late winter is also a great time to test out cold frame construction. Cold frames are miniature greenhouses that help you protect a small area or raised bed from the cold conditions of spring or fall. You’ll be able to start crops much sooner and keep them going much later with a cold frame.
7. Get a head start on tackling weeds
While most weeds won’t start growing until the ground has warmed, cut them off before they develop by laying down plastic sheeting, mulch, or fabric. This will serve several purposes. It will warm the soil so that you can begin to plant earlier, and will also help to suffocate weeds before they can rear their ugly heads.
8. Plant cold season crops and start seeds indoors
Four to ten weeks before you anticipate the last frost, start your seeds indoors. Make sure you start seeds or cuttings for longer-propagating plants, like celery, leeks, or onions, even sooner (up to twelve weeks out in some cases). Cold season crops such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and kohlrabi can be planted in early April in many areas, long before the final frost.
9. Collect nutrients
Now is the time to stock up on garden-feeding essentials, such as wood ashes. Wood ash is comprised of minerals that the tree removed from the soil to aid in its metabolism, which will in turn assist your garden come springtime. Wood ash impacts soil pH, so be sure you apply with care and are aware of your soil composition before spreading this or similar nutrients.
10. Consider a springtime gardening supplement
There are multiple organic additives that can give your garden a necessary nutrient boost after a long, uncomfortable winter. PlantCatalyst® is an excellent example. It is an organic, non-toxic compound that allows your plants to absorb nutrients more effectively. It helps to increase your garden’s fertility and increase your overall harvest.
PlantCatalyst® has been used in agricultural settings for decades and, when combined with these other spring gardening tips, can drastically increase the productivity of your garden. Consider adding it to the soil as soon as the snow melts to help jumpstart the productivity of your garden this winter.
Don’t spend the last few weeks of the season starting wistfully out at the melting snow. Get ahead on your spring gardening to-do list by tackling these important winter gardening tasks.