Alright readers, put on your gloves: it's time to get dirty! In our neck of the woods, we fall under USDA Hardiness Zone 6A. As we head into April, here are some simple tasks to help set your garden up for success:
Clean up the garden in preparation for the season ahead. Remove last year's dead plants, rake back winter mulches, and top-dress beds with compost. After you've finished preparing your beds, plant potatoes, peas, spinach, and other leafy greens as well as beets, turnips, and carrots. Put up a trellis for tall varieties of peas as soon as they sprout.
Later in the month:
Dig, divide, and replant perennials, such as helenium, fall asters, Shasta daisies, chrysanthemums, and phlox. As soon as the weather settles, plant transplants of pansies, forget-me-nots, foxglove, and other cool-weather flowers. Sow seeds of sweet peas, bachelor's buttons, and larkspur in flowerbeds.
Have any more tips? Let us know!
If you are like many gardeners, you probably keep notes on annual seed and plant purchases, past garden successes and failures, and even new things to try. It's a good idea to review these before you start planning your seed and equipment orders. Maps of past gardens will help you rotate plants and avoid overcrowding when planning spacing of plantings.
January is a good time to start a garden journal or even just a file where you can store articles clipped out of newspapers and magazines, or lists of ideas you want to try in the garden. A good place to get a few new ideas is by taking a class or joining a garden club. Interested? Most gardeners love to talk about gardening and won't mind sharing some of their tried and true methods and products with you. Or apply to the Market Gardener Training Program (MGTP) offered by Ohio State University Extension’s Urban Agriculture Program in Cuyahoga County.
Check the seeds you saved and stored from last year's garden. Discard anything that is damp, diseased, moldy, or in otherwise bad condition. Look over what's left, and determine what you need to order.
You also should take a look at squash, potatoes, root crops, and other vegetables and fruits in winter storage. Although conditions may have been ideal when you harvested and stored them in the fall, the cold, wet winter may make that location too wet or damp. Toss anything that has spoiled or has soft spots. The same goes for summer flower bulbs like dahlias and gladioli that you saved to plant this year.
As many avid gardeners have discovered, it's wise to plan your seed order with other gardeners. This will allow you to save money while growing a wider variety of crops and flowers. In addition, some seed companies offer discounts or free seeds for early bird and/or large orders. Just don't fall into the trap of ordering more than you can use. That's where the notes you kept from past years will be useful.
If you need to replace a tiller or want to add a few new gardening tools to your inventory, start comparison shopping in January. Granted, some of this equipment won't be available for purchase in garden centers for a few more months. But by studying catalogs and magazines, talking to friends, and even surfing the Internet now, you will have a better idea of what you want and won't waste valuable time in the spring deciding what to buy.
The same goes for landscape plants. Although you wouldn't be able to plant them now, even if you could buy them, this "down time" in gardening is perfect for planning. Start thinking about what you need to fill in gaps in your landscape or what new plants you'd like to try. It may help to take a walk around your property to visualize where landscape improvements are needed or where you might put in a new flower bed. Think about color, scents, textures, and shapes. Then scout out companies that carry what's on your wish list.
No yard or garden is complete without statuary, gazing balls, sundials, and garden whimsies that make the space uniquely yours. Shop now for what you'll need in the spring to accessorize your lawn, garden, and flower beds. Use your imagination.
This January get creative in the workshop. Build a bat house or a birdhouse or two. Paint garden furniture. Construct artificial lighting set-ups for growing houseplants or starting transplants indoors. Or install a composting bin in your basement, adding a handful of red worms to turn your vegetable table scraps into rich compost for the garden.
Good Luck and Get Planning!
Planning Now for Next Years Crop: Seed Saving
By Todd Rogers
You are growing your own supply of seeds for next year if you stop and look around your garden. Your tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, melons and more are stuffed full of seeds just waiting for you to collect for next year. The benefits of savings your own seeds are plentiful:
If you are interested in these benefits then getting started is relatively easy. First harvest your seeds when they are mature, this is typically after a fruit has fully ripened. Next step is to separate the seed. This can be done by shaking loose or scooping out of fruit. Next dry out the seeds in a cool dry place. And finally collect the seeds and put in a envelope or container. Be sure to include the name of the plant and the date. Seeds will typically be good for 1-2 years.
For more detailed Seed Saving information visit Cleveland Seed Bank How-to videos (http://www.clevelandseedbank.org/how-to-videos-2/) and the upcoming Cleveland Seed Bank Event:
Seed Saving Workshop
2913 East 117th Street, Cleveland, OH, United States