By Paul Vahue
Warm, happy sunshine along with life giving rain encourages us that spring is not far away. Maple trees whose buds swell to crimson red seem to be in agreement. Unfortunately, history does not support this optimism. Typically we will have another freeze or frost before Valentines Day. Last year it was after that date. What to do, what to do, what to do?
Start by cleaning out your garden shed or garage. Properly dispose of bags of whatever that is hard as a rock. Get rid of seeds that are 2008 or older. Take old paint to your county landfill so it can be disposed of properly. Repair broken tools if not, replace them. Sharpen tools with an edge, such as loppers, hedge clippers, axes, shovels, etc. Check your gardening chemical inventory, see if any can be used now such as Malathion with oil for citrus. If you can’t read the label or the chemical has thickened or hardened contact your cooperative extension service for proper disposal. When finished with the shed you can move outside.
Fight the urge to prune and clean up cold damaged plants. Pruning just encourages succulent new growth, which is much more susceptible to cold damage. There is plenty of weeding and raking of leaves to be done. Vegetable and flower gardens can be prepped for planting. Begin by adding compost or other organic matter, such as peat moss or cow manure, to the soil. Unless you have acid loving plants such as blueberries it is wise to also add dolomite or lime to the garden as well. The recommended rate is 4-5 pounds per 100 square feet. Dolomite helps replace Calcium in the soil that has been leeched out in the rain. Dolomite also has Magnesium, which works with Nitrogen to produce chlorophyll, which makes the leaves green. Both the organic matter and the dolomite should be tilled into the garden. Now, it’s time to head back into the house.
Start planning your vegetable or flower garden. Use graph paper and lay it out to scale. For example each square equals one foot. Remember to run the rows east to west, with taller plants such as corn on the north side. Tall plants will shade the rest of the garden if they are in the wrong spot. If you don’t already have seed catalogs, many can be ordered on line for free. Some of the most popular include, burpee.com, stokeseeds.com and vermontbean.com . As soon as seeds are in hand, things like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers can be started inside. Delicate seedlings cannot be set out until after the danger of freeze or frost has passed. Many people believe on planting with the full moon. The first full moon in February is on the 28th. Planting with the moon or tides is a whole other topic. Until next time, Happy Gardening!
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