May 7, 2015

5 Garden Chores to Jumpstart the Growing Season - Photo by Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com) 

My garden is looking lovely so far this spring. I’ve been spending an hour or two a day whittling away at some of the various tasks I like to accomplish before annual planting time arrives. I find that if I get these things finished well before my tomatoes are ready to make their way into the garden, I have a head start on the rest of the growing season and won’t fall behind schedule later. Here are some of the things I’ve been focusing on.

1. Mulching

Every spring, I try my best to have all my garden beds mulched by Cinco de Mayo. I find that doing so really cuts down on weeds later in the season. If I wait much later than that to complete this important task, many weed seeds have already germinated and I end up having to hoe or pull them out before I put down the mulch. In my vegetable and perennial gardens, I mulch with 2 to 3 inches of leaf compost. In my shrub beds and around the fruit trees, I mulch with 2 to 3 inches of shredded hardwood bark.

2. Set Up the Rain Barrel

We use an old oak wine barrel to collect the rainwater that rolls off our roof. Because it’s made of wood, I have to empty it every fall and store it in the shed for the winter to make sure it doesn’t split. I like to have my rain barrel set up and ready to go before my warm-season crops go into the garden. I elevate the barrel on a set of concrete blocks. This makes for easier access to the spigot and allows the water to flow better through the hose. I’m also sure to repair the top screen every spring to keep the mosquitoes from accessing the water inside to lay their eggs.

3. Erect Stakes, Cages and Trellises

I much prefer to hammer in my tomato stakes and erect the tudors and trellises for my cucumbers and pole beans well in advance of the planting date. Having the tomato stakes in place before planting means a reduced chance of accidentally inserting one through the roots of a growing plant. Same with my pole beans: I put the tudor in place first, then plant the bean seeds around it. Because the stakes and trellises are kept in the shed, I like to hose and brush them off before putting them in the garden.

4. Clean and Fill Pots

I grow many plants in containers on the back patio, including lots of annuals and tropical plants. To get a jumpstart on the planting season, I lug all the pots up out of the garage, scrub them off and position them on the patio. Then, I fill them with my planting mix. I use a 50/50 blend of compost and quality organic potting soil. I also put 1/2 cup of organic granular fertilizer into each large pot (1/4 cup in containers smaller than 5 gallons). The pots are filled for a week or two before planting time, giving the potting soil time to settle. I can easily rearrange the pots to my liking before they’re filled with plants and too heavy to move.

5. Edge Garden Beds

I love to have a clean edge on all my garden beds. I find that this is a task best completed twice per season, once in the early spring and then again in late summer. It makes the beds look well-manicured, even if the plants growing inside of them are a little wild—as I like them to be! I’ll show you how I edge my beds quickly and easily in this video

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