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3 Ways to Prepare Your Garden for Spring so You’re Ready to Plant
You should prepare your garden for spring as soon as you put it to bed in the fall. In my opinion.
But let’s be practical. The soil needs to rest for a few months – and so do you.
Yet as the winter months wane and seed catalogs appear in your mailbox, you begin to dream about digging in the dirt.
Dream no more! There are plenty of ways to prepare your garden for spring so you’re ready to plant tomatoes and other crops when the soil warms. Use these 3 big-picture steps like a checklist so you’re set to go.
1. Get your garden tools ready
- Assemble your wheelbarrow, spades, trowels, and garden pruners. Rinse off excess soil with a garden hose. Scrub surfaces with disinfectant and a 10% bleach solution. Sharpen cutting blades. Replace broken handles. Allow tools to dry and then coat cutting and digging surfaces with oil.
- Disinfect supports so they will be clean and ready to go next season. This is especially important if tomato plants had any diseases last season – even a hint of early blight, late blight, Septoria leaf spot, or any kind of wilt. Fungi can overwinter and reappear this year. Help prevent that now. Use a pump sprayer to apply a 10% bleach solution to the supports. Allow supports to air dry, either in the garage or covered area (if weather is inclement) or in the winter sun.
- Tune up your gas-powered tiller. Change the spark plugs, drain and replace fuel, top off the oil, and check the tines to make sure they’re sharp.
2. Get your garden plans organized
- Study the notes you took at the end of last season to determine what crops did well, which to grow again, and which you’d like to try
- Sort through your garden seeds from last year. Choose your crops and tomato varieties that you would like to grow this season. Purchase the seeds you need.
- Draw a garden layout. With careful planning, you can plant and harvest two or even three crops in the same part of the garden during one season in two or three successive waves, maximizing productivity.
- Start your tomato seeds.
- Plan your planting schedule. With a calendar at your elbow, determine when you’ll plant early season crops and summer crops. This goes for tomatoes, too. Decide when you’ll set out early season tomatoes, mid-season tomatoes, and late tomatoes.
3. Get your garden ready to plant
“When should I start preparing my garden for spring?” The short answer: a month before you start planting. That gives you time for preparing the soil for a vegetable garden.
- Clear out garden debris. Remove diseased plants and destroy or burn them. Be sure to obtain burning permits if needed. If you covered the garden with mulch in the fall, rake it off and add it to your compost pile.
- Pull out irrigation hoses.
- Take a soil test sample to check your garden’s nutrient and chemical contents. Even if your garden was healthy last year, it may need amendments from its hard work over the last season. Purchase an inexpensive soil test kit online or at a garden center. Or contact your local extension office and ask about local soil testing services.
- Till the soil. The soil is ready to work when it is dry enough not to clod up when squeezed into a ball and won’t stick to your garden tools. Amend with nutrients as indicated by the soil test results. Work in 2-3 inches of compost or other organic matter into the top 6 inches.
- Rake the surface of the garden so that it is smooth.
- Cover the soil so it warms. Use black garden plastic, which will absorb heat during the day and transfer that warmth to the soil.
Good job! Now study your last frost date schedule. And get ready to plant your new crops.
More about preparing your vegetable garden
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Preparing your soil for planting tomatoes ...
Garden layout ideas on our Pinterest board ...
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