You may not yet be thinking about tomatoes in your garden yet – but you…
As the calendar turns to spring, experienced gardeners know that those 90 and 100-degree days are right around the corner. It’s not too early to plan ahead and get your garden ready for summer, and making preparations now will make it easier on you and easier on your plants. With a garden inspection now and little planning, you can reduce the summer stress on both yourself and your plants. When those dog days arrive, you can sit back in the shade and enjoy a well-earned rest. Follow these five steps to make your summer garden a success.
Get ready for the season. Clean and sharpen garden tools and machinery, get out hoses and sprinklers and be sure they don’t leak, and make a botanical wish list, divided into annuals (flowers and foliage those that last one season) and perennials (those that come back year after year), and plants that can take lots of sun vs. those that prefer shade.
Tidy up. If you haven’t pruned shrubs and ornamental grasses, do so soon now – spring pruning will establish an attractive growth shape for the rest of the season. This is also the time to clean out garden beds – rake out last year’s leaves and throw away any early-season weeds that have popped up. Early spring is also a good time to divide and transplant spreading perennials like ornamental grasses, while they are still dormant and before it gets too hot.
Prepare soil before planting. Spring is the time, before you begin major plantings, to add compost to flower beds in order to lighten and enrich the soil. It’s also a good time to add a low-formulation all-purpose fertilizer or products like earthworm castings or Espoma’s BioTone soil activator to revitalize beds before planting.
Get the garden going. Early spring is an ordeal time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials, while it’s still cool enough for plants to start getting established. Plants like this are a long-term investment so be sure to soak the rootball in a root stimulator solution before planting, then water once a month with that solution for the following six months. This is also time to put out blooming warm-season annuals and to refresh pots, container gardens, and hanging baskets. In addition, you can start spring vegetable gardens now for summer vegetable harvests.
Nurture, protect, replenish. When the rush of spring planting is over, it’s time to enjoy the beauty your hard work has created, and to switch into maintenance mode for summer gardening. Monitor for watering as necessary; early morning is the most effective time to water, and drip irrigation can help conserve water. Keeping flower beds mulched also helps hold in moisture and keep weeds out. As temperature rise, you may want to use floating row covers over vegetable gardens to protect ripening fruit and veggies from scorching sun and predators, and provide stakes and other plant supports for taller or top-heavy specimens. Now that you’ve put in the work, you can enjoy a beautiful garden and a delicious harvest – you’ve earned it!