Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring is springing. Time to prepare.

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X 

This is a detail of my plant charts you can download and print.
They're at the bottom of this post.

I have to laugh at the internet. It sometimes reminds me of a parrot. Or a schoolchild spouting what they have learned by rote.

This is good and bad. You either get affirmation from multiple sources on correct information, or incorrect information is repeated over and over. Always be skeptical. That includes shares on Facebook too, people. Check before you post.

I went to three random sites to give myself a refresher on what to do for spring garden maintenance before I wrote this post. I didn’t want to miss any important steps in the process. Lo and behold, those three sites all had identical – I said identical – lists of what to do. And in the same order. Miraculous.

Now either there is an undeniable, irrefutable list of garden chores in spring, or someone’s plagiarizing. If they were journalists or academics it would be grounds for dismissal. Just sayin'. Are people really that lazy?

The list was:
Fertilize & Mulch
Lawn Care

Now the list isn’t wrong, it just isn’t "right" (if you ask me). Some things are obvious duties, some come sooner in the season and some come later. All need careful explanation. In case you're the least bit interested, here’s my early spring list. 

1. Get a thick, blank, lined book.
You need a book to write down garden progress. You can record what’s coming up when, what made it through the winter, what wasn’t so successful, and most importantly, your ideas and dreams.

Write down the date and what you find. With a good-sized book you can record years of garden success (and failures). Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

2. Look at the “bones” of your garden.
The bones are those plants and structures that supply 12 month interest. This includes garden arbours, deciduous plants and evergreens, and plants that die back but stand up (although dead) all winter. What do you see? Where can improvement be made? Plant and build this season for next winter.

3. Check survival
What’s showing growth? Did you have die-back or snow damage? What lived and what died? Was it your fault or the plant's? There is no sense replacing a dead plant with another one without either protecting it or doing something else to increase its potential survival. Maybe try again but in a more sheltered spot. Or find another cultivar that's more hardy. Don’t throw good money after bad.

4. Remove damage/deadhead
Cleanly cut back any dead parts of perennials and remove the spent flower heads. If you want, collect the heads to use. If it’s a perennial the seeds probably needed stratification, so they may very well be viable. Don’t throw away potentially free plants. I usually try to scatter seeds from perennials in the fall, but if you have any still standing it's worth a shot...

5. Clean up flower beds
This includes weeding, edging and amending. It may be a little too early now to pull weeds, but as soon as the ground has thawed it’s time to get at it. The same holds true for edging.

Remove any protective coverings that need removing. If you used straw some plants like it left in place. It decomposes over the year and helps trap moisture.

Don’t amend every flower bed with fertilizer or compost before thinking about what’s growing there. Some plants dislike a lot of organic matter. Others prefer acid soil. Think before you start flinging compost around.

6. Do tool maintenace
Take a rag and lightly oil your garden tools. Wipe any rust off that may have developed on them over storage. This is a step that should be done in autumn as well. It helps them last longer. 

Of course this is not a complete list by any stretch, but it’s a good starting point for early spring. One glaring omission is starting seeds inside. Those should be started about 6-8 weeks (depending on the plant) before the last frist. Check for info on each plant, and your last frost time, where you live.

To aid your efforts I’m including some planting tables. They’ll help you track plants throughout the year. Handy.

Spring is still a week and a half away, but if the last few days are any indication, we’ll all be out on our hands and knees sooner rather than later.

This year I am going to make a concerted effort to make my gardens work for me. There will be a lot of vegetables and herbs attempted. Herbs will be especially advantageous. They’ll make my cooking more diverse and cut down on the frustration of living a half hour away from the nearest full grocery.

Fresh vegetables won’t hurt either! Come on spring!

The tables. Click to enlarge, then download and print.
Northern hemisphere guide (January to December)

Southern hemisphere guide (July to June)


Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks? Just ask! I’ll answer as best I can. If you like this post feel free to share it using any of the links. If you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

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