4 Steps to Get Ready for the Spring Gardening Season

4 Steps to Get Ready for the Spring Gardening Season

The ladybugs coming out and the return of the Robins and Northern Flickers signal the return of spring and if you cannot wait to get back into the garden here are some tips to help you get ready. 

The age-old question many Calgarians face is when to start planting. The standard response is usually the May long weekend, which falls on May 21-24th this year, but in the end, it really is a personal choice. A lot of Calgarians typically wait until the end of May or the first week of June because they just don’t trust that we won’t get late snow. Regardless of what you choose here are a few tips to get you started right now. 

Clean up and prep your beds and yard

Now is the time to take a survey of your garden beds. Take a look and note any raised beds that may be in need of repair. Look for rotting wood, bowing boards, and gaps between the boards that may need to be repaired or replaced. Is the mulch in your tree and shrub beds in need of a refresh? Do you have a compost bin or will you need to pick that up on your next run to the garden center? Make note of the repairs and list any supplies needed to pick up at your local gardening store so you are set to go.   

Many gardening sites indicate now is not the time to start raking up those leaves that were left from last year as they are the perfect home for ladybugs, bees, and other pollinators. It is suggested you wait until the temperatures reach a consistent +10C to allow for these garden helpers to emerge from their winter homes.  

Clean out sheds, tools, bird feeders, and more  

Don’t overlook this step and pay for it when the perfect gardening day arrives. Rather than being disappointed when that perfect sunny day arrives and finding a disorganized shed and missing tools organize your shed now. Check your gardening tools such as rakes, shovels, garden pots, and lawnmowers to make sure they are free of breaks and are ready for the season. Maybe that lawnmower needs a tune-up? Add that to your list of follow-up items. 

Did you know that you should clean your gardening tools on a regular basis to ensure you are not introducing pests and bacteria into your garden? Use a 1/9 bleach solution and wipe down all rakes, shovels, trowels, and other tools to ensure they are ready for the season. This is also a good time to take a look at your bird feeders and baths. Clean up any spilled birdseed from the ground below to prevent mold and the potential spread of disease.  You can wash birdbaths and feeders in a bleach solution, the dishwasher, or just in the sink with hot soapy water. 

Plan out your garden 

Planning out where to plant your next shrub, tree, annual, perennial, or vegetables can be a fun activity that can be done year-round. Use a journal from year to year to plan and draw out where to put things in the garden. Draw a diagram of your yard with all of the garden beds, planters, trees, and shrubs. Take that diagram and make notes on what did really well where and what struggled. For example, the perfect spot for herbs gets lots of sun and is close to the back door so you can step out when cooking and grab what you need.  Make note of what didn’t grow as well in previous years and consider moving them to a different spot in the garden for this season.  

Working from previous year’s diagrams decide what fruit and vegetables to try this year and make a list. Plot everything out on a new diagram so you know where to put these plants and make sure they’ll have space to grow. This planning helps keep you organized so you don’t miss or overbuy plants and lets you imagine what the garden will look like in full bloom all year round! 

Start Seeds Indoors

And finally, now is a great time to start seedlings inside. If you decide to grow herbs from seed, start them in small peat pots with a clear cover to create a greenhouse effect and place them in a south-facing window to ensure they get lots of sun. Check on them daily, water as needed, and rotate them so all sides get the direct sun. Within a few weeks, some of the seeds will start to sprout and you will have a good start on your basil, thyme, arugula, and rosemary.  

One thing to note is when transplanting these seeds to your garden ensure you “harden” them off by placing them outside during the warm days and bringing them indoors at night. Make sure they are protected from direct sunlight and wind as they are still fragile and could be damaged by winds and heat. This assists in making them hardier and better able to manage any drops in temperature when you plant them in the garden.  

These four steps give you the opportunity to start some gardening while waiting for the threat of snow and frost to pass. Whether you do all of your plantings on the May long weekend or like to wait just a bit longer these tips will ensure you start to get excited for the gardening season ahead. 

Not only is gardening a good opportunity to get in a bit of physical activity but it also gives us access to sunshine, fresh air and allows us to appreciate nature at its best. Happy gardening!

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