Getting Garden-Ready

Spring is finally here (at least astronomically speaking)!  While it’s still a little early to put tender vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and melons you can start to put some of your hardy plants in the ground.  Make sure your soil isn’t too wet before doing anything though.  A good test is to squeeze a handful of soil in your hand. It should crumble and not feel sticky.  If you had your soil tested, make sure to follow the recommendations for fertilizer as well as pH adjustments.  If you haven’t done one yet, it’s not too late.

If you are going to add any manure or compost to your soils, make sure you do this before planting as well.  Again, make sure the soil isn’t too wet to work.  Adding compost and/or manure to your soils will help improve the soil tilth (the physical condition of the soil).  This will give you a loose, easy to work soil that has the proper water-holding capacity, drainage and aeration.  If you are going to be using manure use 500 to 1,000 pounds of horse or cattle manure per 1,000 square feet.  If you are going to use poultry, sheep or goat manure use half the rate (250-500 pounds).  When using compost, add three to four inches of compost over the entire garden area. If you don’t have enough to cover the entire garden, place it in the areas that plants will be going.   After you have put either manure or compost into your garden, make sure to work it into the soil.  If you are going to be adding fertilizer make sure to work that into your soil as well.

Now that you’ve gotten your soil ready, you can start to put some of your hardy and half-hardy vegetables into the ground.  Some plants that are considered hardy are asparagus, garlic (cloves), onions (seed or sets), spinach and turnips.  Some of the half-hardy plants are beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, leaf lettuce, peas, potato and radish.  For a more complete list go to:  The recommended plant periods for these plants are:

Vegetable Recommended planting period for central Illinois

March 15 – April 15


April 10 – July 15


April 10 – May 1


April 10 – July 15


April 10 – July 15

Garlic (from cloves)

March 25 – April 15

Leaf lettuce

March 25 – May 15

Onion (from seed)

March 25 – April 15

Onion (from sets)

March 25 – May 1


April 10 – May 1


April 1- April 15


April 5 – June 1


March 25 – April 15


March 25 – April 15

If you want to start tender plants like tomato, pepper and eggplant now is the time to start them from seed (end of March/beginning of April).

Ken Johnson

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