Prepare Your Vegetable Garden For Spring
The winter months have flown by, and we’re now just at the start of spring. All of a sudden, our gardens are coming back to life, and we’re looking forward to growing our crops and a big harvest later on in the summer. You can almost taste the fresh vegetables, waiting to sprout up through the soil. It would be super disappointing, though, if you came up with nothing. Here are some ways to prepare your vegetable garden for the spring.
Use Fresh, Quality Seeds
Vegetable seeds, like all living things, have a maximum shelf life. According to experts at Craftsy, seeds will only last about two years. Beyond that, they’re less likely to germinate and produce a crop. To keep seeds at their best, make sure that they are stored in a cool, dry place. Even with the best storage, lettuce seeds will only last about two years and tomato seeds about four. It’s worth noting, however, that even if you do really take care of your seeds, older seeds tend not to germinate consistently. In other words, you could end up with a situation where you’ve got gaps in your vegetable plot where seeds simply didn’t turn into plants.
On the front of every seed packet, there should be a date. This date shows the season in which the seeds are meant to be grown. If you’re given seeds by a friend, check the date.
If you’re unsure about whether or not to plant seeds, either because they’re out of date or you’ve lost the packet, then you can use something called the “germination test.” This is where you put seeds between two wet paper towels and leave them inside a zippered plastic bag to keep the towels damp. Then, leave the plastic bag somewhere relatively warm and wait a couple of weeks. If the seeds are okay, then the majority of them should sprout. If they’re too old, less than half will grow. Put in around 20 seeds and then count how many sprout. If less than 10 sprout, then the seeds are probably too old.
Control The Moisture Level Around Your Beds
If you live in a temperate region of the northern hemisphere, spring can be a time of rain. While some rain is good to keep the soil moist and fertile, too much heavy, pounding rain can be a problem for young seeds and saplings. This is why it’s a good idea to cover your bed with some type of shelter. Too much rain can cause nutrients in the soil to leach out and fall down to the water table, out of the reach of the roots of the plants.
Many gardeners use a cloche as a plant umbrella during wet spring months. These are easy to make. All you need are a row of hoops planted in the ground, covered with a plastic, waterproof sheet to keep the worst of the rain at bay. Most people make their own, but there are also commercial, ready-made varieties too.
There are downsides to controlling soil moisture, of course. The first is that you’ll have to spend a bit of extra money on materials, like the hoops and plastic sheeting, if you’ve not already got this stuff knocking around in your shed. The other problem is that you’ll now have to spend a lot more time watering and tending to your plants. The soil underneath the cloche can dry out pretty quickly if left unattended for a couple of days. Keep an eye on the moistness of the soil and make sure that plants remain watered.
Boost Your Soil With Compost
If you’re growing a crop, it’s important to cut down and chop into the soil. Some people do this by hand, but many use an electric rototiller for the garden. Planting seeds down into the ground is a good idea, but they still need fertile soil to grow at their best. As a wise gardener once said, it’s better to feed the soil than it is to feed the plant. While you’re tilling, add compost to the soil and work it in so that it can benefit the roots of the plants. If you’ve got homemade compost from all last’s year’s cut grass and garden clippings, use that. Homemade compost is usually has a very high nutrient composition. If you don’t have enough of that, then you can always buy compost from your local garden center.
To make the best use of compost, spread it over the areas in which you want to plant about two inches thick. Then dig it into the ground. Some types of compost allow you to simply sprinkle them over the soil, but these run the risk of developing a top crust, preventing water and nutrients from penetrating the soil. If you notice this happening, dig the compost in further.
It’s worth noting that compost does more than just provide nutrients. It also increases the amount of organic matter in the soil, increasing water retention.
Use Raised Beds
Many plants, especially garden vegetables, love warm soil. And so many vegetable gardeners are now using raised beds to plant their crops. In the spring, regular soil only warms up slowly, so putting your crops in a raised bed can help them grow faster.
Gardeners need to be wary of raised beds, though. Although the warm up more quickly than regular beds, they’re also prone to drying out much faster. Not only does the sun heat the beds from the top, but it also heats them from the sides, causing the water in the soil to evaporate.
Raised beds imply a lot of work for gardeners. Over time, untreated raised beds will rot and wear out, meaning that it’s good to have a system in place where beds can easily be replaced. In community gardens, most people use untreated wood to prevent harmful chemicals from leaching into the soil. ]
Raised beds also help to protect crops too. They act as a physical barrier, stopping some creatures and well as pets and children from trampling.