Start getting ready for spring gardens

Let’s talk about spring gardens! All it takes for me is a hint of springtime weather, and I’m all about ditching the cold temperatures and readying my garden beds for vegetables.

So, perfect timing, as in our Zone 7, cool weather vegetables can be planted right now. But before you run out to buy plants or seeds, there are some things you should do to ensure success in your garden this year. I am the happy recipient of a catalog from Wayside Gardens, and to me, it’s a wish book, like the old Sears catalog we dog eared as kids at Christmas.

Nan Kirlin
Nan Kirlin

The gardeners at Wayside have some great rules to help you be successful.

1. Get your tool shed in order. Clean and sharpen blades and shovels, lubricate and sharpen and saws, check for gloves, hats, garden kneeling mats. Check for fertilizers and other soil amendments. (Keep in mind that Keep Gastonia Beautiful will be selling its famous Black Gold starting March 31-April 1, April 14-15, April 21-22, April 28-29 at $15/scoop of new this year, $1 for scoop your own bucket.) Please be aware of excessive pesticides and herbicides and how they can have adverse consequences to beneficial pollinators.

Check for garden supports: trellises, tomato cages, garden ties, etc. It is such a treat to wander back to the shed when you realize that your tomatoes need to be staked and tied.

2. Clear out weeds, old mulch and any debris like leaf litter. If this organic matter is rather broken down, you can incorporate this right into your soil. Remove any weeds!

3. Prune shrubs that bloom on new wood such as butterfly bushes, crape myrtles, flowering dogwoods, redbud, hydrangeas, honeysuckle, summer spirea, rose and wisteria. With those newly sharpened pruning shears, wipe blades with isopropyl alcohol prior to each cut.

This will prevent any transfer of bacteria or disease between plants. You can also prune woody ornamentals now. Don't prune the following until after bloom season: rhododendrons, azaleas, camelias, mountain laurel, bigleaf hydrangea, lilacs, magnolias and weigelas.

4. Soil preparation: since soil can be compacted by lots of water or snow, it is important to loosen this first. If you use a tiller, work down at least 12 inches. If you are using a spade, same depth and continually break up clumps of soil; mix in any well composted materials, soils amendments, perlite or sand if your soil is heavily clay or compacted. Level the surface with a garden rake water lightly to settle soil and remove air pockets.

5. Plan your garden: here is where you will now be able to get those cool weather veggies into the ground! Get ready for beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuces, spinach, turnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, kale and collards. These can all be direct seeded or you can find some of these as small plants. Here’s another downfall of mine: I want to plant all of these, and seriously do not have the room.

When all these seeds grow into plants, for you to harvest a reasonable vegetable, it must have adequate room to grow. It breaks my heart to thin seedlings, so I must limit my plantings to now more than one half of the vegetable packet. Don’t fret, though…these seed can be stored in the freezer, and a second planting can be planned for late August/early September to do it all again! We are so fortunate to have three planting seasons!

6. After the seeds are in the ground, you can apply a thin layer of mulch, enough to protect and hold a little moisture but not enough to inhibit the seedlings from erupting! (Heavy mulch serves as a barrier to growth, especially where you use it to block weed growth).

Speaking of mulch, Gaston County will have mulch available starting Saturdays, March 11, 18, 25 and April 1. For just $2/scoop, this mulch will be best for weed control, and since it is fresh, not suitable for your tender garden plants.

Nan Kirlin is recycling coordinator for Gaston County.

This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Start getting ready for spring gardens