Gardener's Advice: Tips for Spring Planting

February 19, 2013

Photo by Janette McCaa
Winter remains for a little while longer, however there are still things you can do to get your yard and garden ready for the spring planting. I enlisted the help of my neighbor and friend, Janette McCaa, who is a seasoned veteran in the garden. I asked her some questions to help those who may be new to gardening, and asked her to provide some tips for what to do before the weather warms up.

Question 1: What advice would you give to someone who is considering gardening?

"I would advise a novice gardener to start small so as not to become overwhelmed and disappointed. Make sure that your garden soil is well balanced, whether it is planted in the ground or in containers. The soil is the foundation of the garden's success! Follow the guidelines for each plants' preferences: planting dates (before or after frost), location (sun, shade, or part), fertilization, and watering requirements."

Question 2: What are a few easy-care plants, veggies, trees, etc. you could recommend to a new gardener?

"Plant a mix of plants to ensure some success throughout the planting season. In the kitchen garden, radishes, carrots, and lettuces are all great plants for the beginner to start from seed. Transplants of collards, cabbage, and broccoli are easily established. Herbs are very forgiving which makes them great for beginners--plant the seeds for chives and cilantro while the weather is still cool. For easy spring flowers, I would suggest pansies, daffodils, crocus, and hyacinth. The shrubs of camellias, azaleas, and forsythia add beautiful color to the landscape. The flowering apricot tree is one of the earliest bloomers, with a show of true pink flowers against its vivid, green stems before the leaves come out."

Question 3: What additional tips could you give a beginning gardener to help them get started this spring?

Tip #1 -- Get Your Soil Tested

February is a good time to have your garden soil tested for its fertility and pH values. For a minimal fee, your local extension service can identify what nutrients you may need to add so your garden will produce at its maximum potential.

Tip #2 -- Prepare Early

Start preparing your garden spot now. Double dig and add composted organic matter such as leaves, vegetable scraps, and manure. Make sure the organic matter has been, 1.) aged to help breakdown large particles; and, 2.) heated to kill any weed seed that may have existed.

Tip #3 -- Get Going on Early Crops

Plant the seeds of spinach and garden peas directly into the garden. Peas include snow peas, sweet peas, and snap peas. These like cooler temperatures.

Tip #4 -- Know When to Prune

Pruning trees, shrubs, and grapevines while they are dormant is a good rule of thumb. However, spring bloomers, which have set their bloom in the fall, should be pruned after they bloom. These include redbud, dogwood, forsythia, and azaleas.

Tip #5 -- Cutback Decorative Grasses

Now is the time to cut back your decorative grasses. If grasses have gone dormant or turned brown, cut them down just above the ground. If you have evergreens, just tidy them up a bit.

For the beginning gardener, these tips will help you start your first garden successfully. For the seasoned veteran, these tips are great reminders of what to do and when. I would like to thank Janette for her willingness to share with us her vast knowledge. She told me that she's no expert, and what she knows is from trial and error. However, I know she knows her stuff, and I know you can be a successful gardener using the information she has provided.

I hope you will bookmark, pin, or otherwise share this post with friends and family. If you decide to get into gardening, or if these tips helped you, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks for following Practips!
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