By Ken Johnson
The weather is starting to warm up and the spring bulbs are starting to push up out of the ground. There’s going to be a lot of things to do out in the garden here soon. Here are just a few things to consider doing:
First, don’t be in a hurry to start working your soil, let it dry out first. Tilling or digging in wet soil will compact the soil and destroy the soil structure. Before working the soil take a handful and squeeze it. If it crumbles it is ready to work, if it doesn’t it’s still too wet. Wait for a few days and test again.
Second, don’t be in too big of a hurry to get thing in the ground. If you do put stuff in the ground, particularly plants that aren’t very cold hardy, be prepared for late frosts. The average last frost date for this part of the state is April 15. Tender plants can be covered with row covers, cardboard, blankets or even newspaper. This will help trap some of the heat in the ground and help keep the plants from getting to cold.
When shopping for plants, make sure the plants you’re buying are healthy. Plants should be green and healthy looking. Plants that have yellowing or browning leaves or stems should be avoided. Take a moment and check out the roots of the plants as well. The roots should be white and numerous. Also, look for any insect pests such as aphids, whiteflies and scale. If you find any, avoid these plants.
If you are growing your own transplants, make sure you harden them off before putting them in the ground. Gradually introduce them to the outdoors over a seven to ten day period. By doing this your plants will get acclimated to their new environment and you’ll have more success transplanting them.
If you have ornamental grasses make sure to cut them back. Leaving the dead foliage will delay the warming of the crown and therefore slow the growth of new grass. Cut them back to about 4 to 6 inches above the ground.
Ornamental grasses and most perennials should also be divided in the spring. (Some fleshy rooted perennials such as poppy, peony, and iris are best divided in the late summer to very early fall.) Ornamental grasses should be divided if the center of the plant had died out (looks like a doughnut) or it has gotten to big. Perennials can be lifted out of the ground and broken into sections. Discard any dead or diseased area of the plants. The bigger the section, the quicker they will reestablish.
These are just a few things that you can do to get your garden off to a good start this year.