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Waking Up Your Garden

By: Elizabeth Dickey, Education and Visitor Engagement Director | 03/04/2019

Early spring is a great time to shake off the winter blues and get your garden ready before the busy warm season is upon us.

Local gardeners have a few sayings that guide when to tackle different gardening tasks. Tomatoes may be planted when the snow is off of Shaffer Butte, roses may be pruned when the forsythia blooms, and cold hardy seeds and plants may be planted the day after St. Patrick’s Day.

The last bit of gardening advice is based upon the generalization that by that time your soil is warm enough to be safely worked without the threat of its structure being damaged. If you dig too soon, the earth becomes compacted, making it more difficult for water and air to move through the soil. Both air spaces and water are vital for good root health.

Here is a list of tasks you can accomplish after the ground thaws but before it is time to plant warm-season plants such as tomatoes and petunias.

• Take a look at your gardening tools. Oil and sharpen those that need it. Purchase new items and supplies as needed.
• Many weeds do not take it easy during the winter, but instead continue to grow during the cold months. Give your beds some attention by pulling back mulch you applied last fall and pulling any weeds that took up residence despite your best efforts. Wait to apply new mulch until the weather warms above 50 degrees at night.
• Trim back perennials that have died, in order to promote new growth and discourage diseases from growing on dead foliage.
• Apply compost an inch deep to areas without native plants. Most non-natives and vegetables benefit from soil enriched with the organic matter compost provides. Compost better supports important soil organisms than artificial fertilizers. If you have space, making compost at home is a cost-efficient practice. Spring is a good time to start a compost pile if you do not have one.
• Take a look at your shrubs and trees, and prune out broken or crossed branches. When possible, do not prune spring flowering trees and shrubs until after they flower.
• Plant trees, shrubs, hardy flowers such as pansies, and cold weather vegetables such as peas, lettuce and spinach.

By getting your garden into shape and the weeds under control early in the year, your May through September will be much more relaxed.