Preparing For Spring Gardening
Spring will be here before we know it. And now is the time for gardening to prepare for it. You may worry about the odd late frost or strong gust of wind that may undo your preparations if you move too soon. All the same, it is always a good idea to plan ahead and prepare for the gardening jobs you will soon have to do. Anyway, what's the worst that can happen? Your seedlings get burned off or your drills get flooded or something simple like that. Well if you started early and these minor inconveniences did not happen you get a head start. If they do happen you are only back where you would have started your gardening year anyway, so what have you got to lose?
The first thing to do is to take a pen and paper and walk the garden. Make a note of every thing that will help you to plan the garden you want to have in spring. You will see and remember things that you might never have thought of had you stayed sitting beside the fire. For example, you may note that you had a problem with a fungus attacking the bulbs in one of your beds last spring. You may want to plant the new ones in another part of the garden this spring. Or you may decide that the flowers that you had in the section near the apple tree did not do so well and will need to be moved to a sunnier area. You may recall that the slugs were a serious problem last year and that you will have to take steps to combat this in spring. Only you know your garden, so I can not make the notes for you.
Then using your notes to make a to-do list for yourself and start drawing a map of your garden. Pencil will do, but a colour diagram will bring it to life and make it easier to visualise what you are aiming to achieve. Especially if you are planning to do different gardening in different areas. You could colour code the different gardening styles or areas.
It is important to consider the amount of space given to each plant and how much room it will need when fully grown. When the plants first come up in spring they may not need much, but at the end of the season they may need considerable space. It may be possible to combine plants with fast cycles with the ones that have slow cycles. The ones with fast cycles may sprout and flower before the slow ones have even begun to grow. This will help maximise your use of the space you have in your garden in spring.
I would recommend that seeds are always planted indoors and looked after properly. This will reduce your losses to frost. They should be planted in a shallow well drained container with a good purpose-mixed compost. Cover the container/tray with a clear plastic to keep them warm and moist and well lit. Check them regularly and make sure that you are not getting a mould growing inside the plastic. There are many types of suitable containers available from your garden suppliers. You can also have them delivered by ordering online from some of the links you find on this site.
As mentioned above there is always a possibility of a late frost but it is always a good idea to plan your gardening and take steps to prevent problems before they arise.
When the seedlings are big enough start to harden them off in preparation for putting them out in spring. Hardening them is done by gradually introducing them to cooler temperatures than they would experience in the greenhouse.
I am often asked about how exactly you harden off seedlings and small plants. What you need to do is decrease the tempreture for the plants gradually. This can be done by opening the windows wider and for longer periods to cool the greenhouse. It could be that you have a cold end to your greenhouse, for example near the door or something like that. Just move them to this area. for a few days then to a slightly colder area and so on. Gardening is nor complicated. It just means simulating the ideal environment for your plants. That varies from plant to plant and country to country.
In most countries spring will not necessarily mean a sudden rise in temperatures so the young plants will need to to be well prepared or they may be stunned by the cold and their growth will stop or slow to a crawl. When planting out do so in the morning so that the plant will have the day to acclimatise before the cold of night. That is of course if the daytime temperatures are not too extreme.
Preparing for spring is a slightly more demanding activity than preparing for winter. However, the real activity will not begin until spring is arrives.
If your grass has grown during the winter don't worry about it. I certainly would not recomment that you mow your lawn untill most of the frost and the worst of the winter generally is gone. The first cut should just trim a little off the top. See how the grass reacts to this. Then after a week or so take another little bit off. As spring continues you will eventually reach a full cut and be able to rake the thatch from the soil. The thatch offers a measure of protection to the soil and young shoots during the winter and late spring.
Shortly after mowing may be a good time to fertilise the lawn. Read the instructions on the pack. Many fertilisers and weed killers can not be applied to newly cut lawns. Follow the manufacturers instructions in this regard. And take local advice as gardening conditions vary from place to place depending on climate etc.
Check all your mulched areas and make sure that they are still in good shape. If the wind has blown some of the mulch away replace it, as these areas are exposed to the cold and some of the spring flowering bulbs may come up late or be killed by frost etc. Visit you garden centre regularly even if you do not buy anything. It will help you to keep up to date with the gardening calendar and you will learn much from the gardeners that go there and work there. Sites like this one are also worth visiting from time to time. (I had to say that, didn't I)
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