Getting A Jump On Spring Gardening - 3 Things You Can Do Now

We've had quite a winter here in PA. And boy do I have spring fever. I just can't wait to get out and plant. Especially, beautiful annuals like the ones above.

Sadly, it's not quite time to start planting yet, but there are a few things that all of us can do to get a jump on spring gardening season.

1. Take a Test (A Soil Test - That Is)

One of the most important things you can do to help your plants grow big and strong is provide the right food for them in the form of nutrients in the soil. And the best way to determine that is to have your soil tested. Yes, even if you are composter, checking your soil is a good idea.

While this may sound hard, it's very easy. Most states have a land grant university and that university usually sponsors a cooperative extension office in each county. Here in PA our university is Penn State and we have a Penn State Cooperative Extension office in most counties. These folks run educational programs as well as provide support to local farmers, nurseries, etc. They are one of the best places to pick up a soil test kit. You pay for the test when you pick up the kit, follow the directions to collect a soil sample and then send the kit off in the mail. In a few weeks the results will come back. The test looks for levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium as well as pH and the results will let you know how much of each you should add to your soil.

There are test kits available in nurseries and on-line for do-it-yourselfers. Here is a link to one that is available on Amazon:

I have used them, but I also love chemistry and fooling around with things like that. If you don't, talk to your local cooperative extension or contact them on-line (some of them will send you the kit in the mail if you don't live close to an office.)

By making sure that you have the right nutrients in your soil before you plant, your plants will have a better chance of thriving this gardening season!

2. Follow the Sun

Another extremely important thing for success in growing plants is the right amount of sunlight. Too much and some plants dry up in the heat; too little and you can have spindly plants struggling to survive.

So now is a great time to determine how much sunlight different parts of your yard receive throughout the day. Here are some guidelines to match what growers use on plant tags:

  • Full Sun: More than 6 hours of sun/day

  •  Part Sun: 4-6 hours of sun /day

  •  Part Shade: 2-4 hours of sun/day

  •  Shade: Less than 2 hours of sun/day

So just spend some time on a weekend noting how much sunlight your yard receives. You can then find the best plants for your garden when it's time to go shopping.

3. Take Stock

garden tools

On one of our warmer days, spend some time in your garage or garden shed and take stock of the tools, pots, and other garden items that you have. Repair or discard anything that's broken, make sure shovels and pruners are sharp and take some time or organize pots, soil and chemicals. Make note of anything that needs to be replaced and then if you have time - go shopping! One more thing out of the way so that when the weather gets warm you'll be ready to plant.

Doing a few of these chores now will give you a head start on spring planting!

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