Although it might not seem like it with snow and ice still covering the ground, spring is around the corner.

By Kelly Evenson


kelly.evenson@examiner.net


Although it might not seem like it with snow and ice still covering the ground, spring is around the corner. And now is the time to not only start thinking about lawn and landscaping projects, but also to start planning that spring vegetable or flower garden.


“Spring is really not that far away,” said Marlin Bates, regional horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “This is the time of year that gardeners really start to think about what they will be planting in the spring.”


The Examiner has compiled 10 ways for the expert gardener, or even one who is just beginning, to get ready to start putting seeds in the ground.


10 Organize and discard. Now is the time to organize the tool shed or garage, wherever the gardening supplies are kept once winter weather sets in. This includes cleaning and sterilizing any used pots or planters. In addition, any old lawn chemicals should be properly discarded and replaced with new ones.


9 Check your tools. Blades should be sharpened on hand tools and everything should be cleaned. Also look to see if any new tools need to be purchased.


8 Choosing the best fit. A good question before anything goes into the ground is – “what do I want to plant?” Bates said it really depends on what someone wants in their garden. It is important however to research different kinds of vegetables. He said the reason is simple – some vegetables need to be planted at certain times of the year for the best results.


7 Prepare the soil. Tilling the bed is a good way to start, which will bring soil from below up to the surface as well as mixing in organic materials. According to Home and Garden online, www.homeandgardenonline.com, additional patience must be used in removing winter mulches. Soil preparation also means pulling the weeds.


Weeding now, according to the home and garden Web site, will save much time later. By starting a weekly weed regime now, it will make the process easier to follow throughout the summer.


6 Don’t forget the manure! Once the ground is prepared, manure or compost fertilizer can be spread to add nutrients to the soil.


5 Shop, shop, shop. Going to the home and garden center is really the best way to find out what products or available. Other information is available there as well including the best time of year to plant certain vegetables and flowers and the best area of the yard to plant for optimal growth.


4 Reseed the lawn. According to the MU Extension Web site, www.extension.missouri.edu, March is a good time to “overseed thin spots” of an already established lawn, specifically cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue and perennial ryegrass. In addition, herbicides for annual weeds should be used and old, excess growth should be removed by a power rake or mower before new growth starts.


3 Prune now. More landscaping than gardening, but Bates said pruning shrubs and trees, especially fruit trees, needs to be done, before spring starts.


“Any annual maintenance needs to be done now and not postponed until it is warmer,” he said. “Pruning needs to be done before the first bud breaks. Otherwise, it is not best for the tree.”


2 Test the soil. Although not as easy when there is snow on the ground, Bates said once the snow melts, winter is the perfect time to have the soil tested. The results will determine if issues such as the pH need to be corrected. Soil test kits are available at most hardware and gardening stores.


“By taking a sample now, it will allow you to find out if anything needs to be done for you to have a successful garden,” he said. “It will test the fertility of the soil as well as how much organic matter is there. It is a good practice to get into this time of year.”


1 Plan, plan, plan. Bates said the most important task a person can do this time of year is sit down and plan a garden. That includes thinking about what kind of garden is needed and what the end result of that garden will be.


“Figure out what you want to get out of your garden,” he said. “Is this a garden to provide for your family or is this a garden where you want to plant 20 to 30 percent more than you need to give to friends or donate to local food banks. That is an essential step so you don’t overspend when purchasing seeds or under spend and not have what you want.”