I can't remember a winter that has seemed longer, and more depressing in general. However, it is now officially March, which means that even though it won't be warm and wonderful for at least another month or two, it is now permissible to reasonably expect that gardening season will return, and one must be prepared. And even though I've been gardening for almost 30 years, I still have to remind myself of everything that must be done. So here is my list of things to do to prepare for garden season.
1. Start by making a list of your overall goals for this growing season. Do you want to add fruit trees? Try new varieties? Find new flowers? Landscape a new area of your yard? Get chickens? Reduce your maintenance? My lists shrink as I run out of space, but I definitely want to try new varieties of vegetables (field peas and okra!), add a few more fruit trees to my new orchard (I was thinking quince and pawpaw), and perhaps tackle and try to civilize an area near my side porch that would make a nice woodland garden. So, as you can see, gardening for me is about the whole landscape, not just veggies. And I'm still looking for basket willows to plant.
2. Plot out your veggie garden. It's one thing to have a pile of seeds, or dreams of veg abundance, it's another thing to plan where and what to plant. I like to use graph paper and a pencil and think about it systematically and visually. Unfortunately, my husband likes to just plant things and then not mark them in any way I can understand--so sometimes we have gardening "situations." The important thing to remember is to not plant the same plants in the same place you planted them last year, because you need to trick the bugs into getting lost.
3. Order your seeds and transplants. Start by organizing the seeds you might already have and then--and this is the fun part--page through your favorite catalogs or websites to find what you want and order seeds! Remember, if you go to places like Home Depot and Wal-Mart to get your plants, you are more likely to pick up diseases and blights from the stuff grown there. This is a great chance to support wonderful organizations like Seed Savers Exchange, and your local independent nurseries instead of the "big box" stores.
4. Make a list of all the things that need to be cleaned up and fixed. Again, since gardening isn't just about growing tomatoes, it's also about enjoying your whole outdoor life, ask yourself what happened over the winter that needs to be fixed? Are there trees that need to be pruned, or plants that need to be moved? Did someone who shall go unnamed leave your favorite tools out in the snow and ice, and now they are destroyed and need to be replaced.
5. Clear the decks (or the beds). Nothing is more depressing than having the first bulbs start to bloom in the spring, but you can barely see them under last year's dead flower stems (with perhaps some trash and dog poop involved). I like to start at one side of the yard and work my way around and cut back dead plants, cleaning up and removing trash and whatever else one finds after the snow melts (which, for the record, it still hasn't quite). I also like to call my dear landscaper friend Reds Bailey and say, "please come, quick!" And he and his guys come and spend a few days helping me out--and look for new ways to use a backhoe, because they really do love that backhoe.
It's almost spring! Yay! Starting today I will no longer wear socks (and would rather not wear shoes, either), and you can probably find me out back in the garden.
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