Whether you’re a first-time hobbyist or a dedicated horticulturalist, it can be tricky to plan out your spring garden. Between preparing the soil, purchasing supplies, and figuring out when to plant, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To help make your horticultural journey a little more organized, here’s a look at some factors to consider when planning your garden.
Figure out your frost dates
Before you put any plants in the ground, it’s important to know your area’s frost dates. Your local frost date is the average day of the season’s last frost. To find this day, check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac or use an online tool. Once you know the date, you can back up several weeks to figure out when to start weeding, setting up fixtures, and supplementing the soil. However, once the frost date has passed, there’s still a 30 percent chance that a freeze could still happen. If you’re eager to get plants into the ground, plan accordingly by choosing hardy, cold-tolerant vegetation for your early spring garden. If you have a planter garden, consider keeping an eye on the weather and moving your pots indoors in the event of a freeze.
Prepare your tools
Even if the ground is frozen or it’s too chilly to work outside, you can still make preparations for gardening season. Take a trip to the hardware store to pick up items like potting soil, mulch, planters, tomato cages, and garden implements. But don't neglect the tools sitting in your shed or garage, either. Pruners and other bladed tools should be cleaned in hot, soapy water, since dirty items can transmit diseases to freshly pruned plants. Once your tools are dry, sharpen the blades with a mill file and penetrating oil to hone the edges for easy shearing. It’s also a good idea to squeeze a few drops of oil or WD-40® into the hinges of your shears, snips, and pruners for easy operation when springtime arrives.
Get your hands dirty
When the weather permits and the ground thaws out, head outside and prepare to break ground. You’ll need to weed the garden and break up the first 12-14 inches of soil, which you can achieve with a hoe or a rototiller. A gas-, battery-, or electric-powered rototiller will make your job much easier, but if you can’t fit one into your budget, you may be able to rent one from your local hardware store. Once your soil has been worked, consider testing your soil chemistry and supplementing it as needed. You can also mix in compost or fertilizer to replenish the nutrients lost from last year.
Form a seed strategy
Consider the kinds of plants you’d like to grow. Some seeds may be cold tolerant and germinate best in early spring, so you can freely sow these when it’s still chilly outside. Others take a long time to sprout and mature, so if you start the seeds indoors during the chilly months, they’ll be ready to plant after you’re in the clear for frost. If you’d like to have bulbs for your summer garden, purchase them locally or order them online during late winter, so you have plenty of time for them to ship.
Figuring out how to plan your garden is tricky for first-timers, hobbyists, and seasoned growers alike. For more information, consider consulting with your local nursery for specific advice on what — and when — to plant in your region.