We are deep in the heart of winter, and there is no denying that this can be a tough time of year. At the present moment, it’s just been announced that school buses are cancelled due to an impending snow storm (again), and I am running out of room to pile the snow I shovel every day. It really does seem like gardening season is light years away. Over the years I’ve realized that one of the best ways to beat the winter blahs is to plan forward and get ready for my summer gardens. There are little things I like to do in the months leading up to planting that not only bring me joy, but also reduce the chaos when the final frost has finally thawed. So today, I thought I’d share with you some of the fun things I’ll be focused on this spring, in anticipation of feeling the warm sunshine once again!
March: Prepping and Planning
March is the perfect time to start planning your gardens. For the last couple of years, I’ve been doing some extensive landscaping at my home, and will be transitioning to container gardening for this summer. I think it will give me some flexibility when it comes to space, and some control over the conditions (as I can move the containers around as needed). This month, I’ll be planning how many containers I need, researching the best types of self-watering containers, and figuring out where to place my planters.
Of course, I’ll also be planning what to plant. I’ve made the mistake of leaving my planning until the moment I walk into the garden centre. This left me stuck with the nursery leftovers--the weakest, saddest, smallest seedlings in the bunch. Over time, I’ve learned to plan in advance what I’d like to have in my garden. I have learned what I am confident at growing from seeds (hint: not much) and what I’d rather purchase as a robust seedling grown by a professional. And even though I started my gardening journey strictly with veggies, I’ve learned to love having flowers in my gardens (along with houseplants that live outdoors in warmer months).
Once I’ve made a list of everything I’d love to have in my summer gardens, I order seeds online or check my local library’s seed bank, where community members leave leftover seeds for someone else’s use. The other thing I order at this time of year is a bottle or two of Plant Vitamins Thrive Garden. One bottle makes up to 475 litres of fertilizer, so it’s big enough to use all over the place and last me throughout the season.
April: Saying Goodbye to Snow
Though it’s fairly unpredictable here in Canada, chances are that the snow will leave us sometime in April. This is the month when I start to remove the protective fabric covers from my garden shrubs, so they can soak up the April showers, and even a little sun on the warmer days. I also make sure to take inventory of my garden tools, sharpening some and repairing others. I increase the amount of Thrive that I use on my houseplants, too, as spring has officially arrived.
Once it’s feasible, I rake the lawn, and even throw down some grass seed on the bare patches. Late April is usually the time we get a couple of warm days, and I take advantage of the warmth to start tilling flower beds. I typically do a soil test at this point to see what type of amendments my existing soil might need.
May: Getting Ready to Plant
Around here, we typically don’t plant outdoors until after the long weekend in May (the weekend before May 25th). In the weeks leading up to this, I make sure to order any mulch and garden soil that I might need. I spend some time each morning taking seedlings and houseplants out onto the porch or deck during daylight hours. This helps to get them acclimatised to the wind and the sun. Be extra careful not to let your little plants get knocked over by strong winds, or sunburned. Giving them this opportunity to be outdoors bit by bit will help to avoid any shock when they are moved permanently outdoors.
I visit garden centres during May to choose the hardiest veggie plants I can find. I love to buy tomato plants and pepper plants that are as big as possible, since our growing season is short in our neck of the woods. I also love to pick up bright flowers that are easy to care for; snapdragons, dahlias and petunias were some of my favourites last year.
Once that final frost has passed and it’s time to plant everything, I’m grateful I’ve spent some time preparing for the main event. Not only does it help brighten my mood, but it reminds me that seasons change, and soon enough we will be out in the garden again. As we all know, no amount of planning or preparation is a guarantee when it comes to plants, but putting a few safeguards in place can help set you up for success well into the fall.