Eye on Extension: Planning for the spring garden


VALLEY — With all the unseasonably warm weather we have had it is almost impossible to not be thinking about spring gardens. Likely garden catalogs have arrived and gardeners are starting to get anxious to begin gardening.

It is still too early to begin digging in the garden soil. Starting now can damage the soil’s structure. Wait to turn the soil when it is dry and not frozen. To assess the soil, pick up a handful, is should fall apart and not stick together like glue. Sandy soils don’t have as much structure but we should still wait before working them.

There are some things that we can start now that will reduce some of the workload later on. While the garden centers don’t have spring plants available yet, you can talk to some of them about you plans for this spring. Garden center staff can give you ideas on new and different plants they have heard about for this year. 

Make a list of things that will need to be done before planting. Prioritize the list.  There will be some things that can be done now. Begin to put a plan together for how you want your garden to lay out. Paper and a pencil, with an eraser, are a great help.

February and March are good times to get a soil analysis done for the vegetable garden or planting beds. Lawns can be tested if the soil isn’t frozen. The soil should not be too wet when the sample is taken. The soil test will let you know what nutrients you need to add to your garden, yard or flowerbeds. Gardeners can over apply fertilizers costing them money. If a soil test is done the appropriate amount of fertilizer can be applied, saving money.

Look over your garden equipment. Some things may have been damaged over winter or left from last year that will need repair. Trellises, fences, garden structures, or raised beds can be repaired on warm days over the next month or so.  Clean and sharpen your tools. Shovels, hoes, and cutters can be evaluated and put in condition to start the gardening season off right. 

Some trees or shrubs may have been damaged by winter snow. Remove any broken or crossing branches that may be damaged by rubbing. Prune unwanted branches of trees and shrubs. If there is any remaining dead perennial foliage from last season, remove it as well.

Don’t prune spring flowering shrubs, like lilac or forsythia, in late winter. Their flower buds are ready to open as temperatures warm. 

You can also do some research online with web sites like www.planttalk.org or www.plantselect.org.

Plant Talk is a place to find reliable information on over 500 horticulture topics.  There are over 300 of these topics in Spanish as well. 

Plant Select is the country’s leading source of plants designed to thrive in high plains and intermountain regions. Plants are often evaluated several years before they are recommended for planting to insure they will work in selected environments.

Don’t forget the lawns as well. They can be raked when the ground is clear to remove any leaves, limbs or winter debris. In mid to late March consider re-seeding bare or damaged patches of lawn. Using a metal rake, work the bare spots before seeding. Keep the area well watered until the seedlings emerge and the new grass is established. It may take several weeks before seedlings emerge if the soil is cold.  Aerating a lawn can help with areas that are becoming compacted and need a little help. Do not apply a crabgrass preventer to areas that will be re-seeded later. These are a few tips to consider when starting to think about to jumpstart the spring garden season.

For more information, you can call the Colorado State University Extension, San Luis Valley Area Office at 719-852-7381.

Extension programs are available to all without discrimination, Colorado State University Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating.