By Mary Leigh Oliver
Contributed by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System
While experiencing the cold winter weather, one of the many things people look forward to are the luscious spring gardens. It is never too early to start planning. Now is the time for gardeners to begin prepping their gardens for the spring growing season.
Before taking any steps toward growing a spring garden, it is essential to first remove all the plants and weeds from the previous season. Starting from a clean slate will give the garden a clean, organized appearance, as well as healthy, fresh soil.
The most important step when beginning to prep a garden is to conduct a soil test. Based on the results of the soil test, gardeners may have to add nutrients to adjust the pH of the soil in order for it to best suit the plants. Soil that is overly acidic may be harmful to some plants. It is important to keep a constant eye on soil pH levels to ensure they remain within the 6 to 7 range.
“You might want to plant a cover crop if you have poor soil,” said Rhonda Britton, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System home grounds, gardens and home pests regional agent. “This will help build up organic matter in the soil.”
Also, it is important to determine whether the proposed garden plot receives at least six hours of full sunlight. Without the adequate amount of sunlight, the plants would not be able to thrive.
Plan Out the Garden
To have a successful spring garden, Britton suggests keeping a notebook for gardeners to plan what they are going to plant. In the same notebook, people can plan the potential layout, dates and times for planting. Getting ahead and staying on top of a gardening routine will ensure a successful, flourishing garden.
Britton said at the beginning of the planning process, it is important for people to decide whether they want to buy transplants or plant their own seeds inside, starting in the winter.
“Some plants, such as squash, cucumber, corn and beans, do better with direct seeding,” Britton said. “Plants that do better as transplants are tomatoes and peppers.”
If people plan to plant seeds, they should begin searching through seed catalogs now to purchase their desired seed. Having the plants or seed planned out before the spring season will allow for a quick and efficient growing season.
Lastly, depending on the region, it is important to identify and keep note of the different weather conditions. For example, depending on where gardeners live in Alabama, certain areas can begin planting before others. The warm temperatures in south Alabama would allow people to begin planting much sooner than the cooler temperatures in north Alabama do.
Britton recommends downloading the Alabama Extension SOW app. This application includes recommended dates for planting based on the region or county the person is located in. Knowing the specific conditions for the area is crucial for a long-lasting spring garden season. Visit the Alabama Extension content piece SOW–A Planting Companion for more information on downloading the SOW app.
With the dull colors and cold weather dragging on, it is thrilling to get to plan for the warm, bright colors of the season to come. Don’t let the winter blues get you down; start planning for your spring garden before you’re too late. For more information on planning for spring gardens or other topics, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu , or contact your county Extension office.