Spring is in the air. Buds are appearing on branches. Birds are singing in the trees. The garden is coming to life with crocus, tulips, and daffodils coming out of the ground. I am so ready to see them! As I not-so-patiently wait, here are eleven tasks that I am trying to accomplish in the garden and on the farm this spring. Join me in preparing for the flowers to bloom.
1) Weed your garden. I am pulling up weeds like henbit, chickweed, and hairy bittercress before they go to seed. These weeds germinate in the fall and overwinter, usually spreading their seeds in the spring. Now is the time to get them out. Even better, use the weeds to make a weed tea.
2) Mulch or seed pathways. After taking care of the weeds, I make sure any rogue seeds don't have an opportunity to sprout by mulching the pathways. This will help keep weed pressure down during the whole growing season. I use wood chips that we got for free from a local tree trimming company. The wood chips make great pathways. However, I also have living pathways of grass in another area. I am planning on putting down white clover and rye seed and continuing to pull up weeds in those areas. The living pathways will be a multi-year project to get them to the place where they are providing nutrients for the soil and the flower crop in the bed that the pathway surrounds.
3) Plant new roses and prune existing roses. Now is the time to plant bare root roses. I received three new bare root roses this spring. After soaking them for 24 hours, I planted them into a wide hole with compost. I top dressed them with an alfalfa slurry and water them each day until they get well established. They are already budding. It is also the time in WNC to prune existing roses.
4) Pull mulch back from peonies & roses. Over the winter, I mulched the peony beds and the roses. Adding mulch around the base of the roses helps protect the graft site from freezing to ensure that the rose continues to bloom true to the variety instead of blooming as the graft stock. In the spring, it is time to pull mulch back from the peonies as they begin to sprout. It is also time to pull back the mulch from the base of the roses as long as there are not really cold temperatures expected. This ensures that the rose doesn't rot.
5) Clean up perennial beds that were left for insects, and birds. I left a lot of dead flowers in the perennial beds for praying mantis to lay eggs on and for birds to forage in. I began cleaning the beds up last week and was careful to look out for the praying mantis egg sacks. As a side note, there are different praying mantis species. Unfortunately, the species we probably see the most of is an invasive mantis species. If you find an egg sack, read this post to help you identify which species you have found and what to do with it.
6) Build a bird house. I printed out build plans from this post and am looking forward to accomplishing this with my two youngest during their spring break this week.
7) Start seeds. It is time to start seeds! We are six weeks out from our last frost date. This week, I am starting some heat-loving seeds and will continue to start flowers that like cool weather.
8) Plant out seedlings. Some of the cold-tolerant seedlings can be planted out when they are ready (Sweet Peas, Bachelor Buttons, Snapdragons, Sweet William, etc). Before planting them in the garden, these seedlings still need to be hardened off over the course of a few days to help them adjust to temperatures outside. Make sure to water the seedlings in well.
9) Prepare frost cloth. Even though consistent warm weather is approaching, we can still have freezing weather that would require protection for little seedlings. In order to prepare for cold snaps, make sure that you have frost cloth to be able to cover your new seedlings. There are many spring nights and days that find me outside covering and uncovering the little caterpillar hoops.
10) Start compost/turn compost. If you haven't started your compost pile yet, now is the time to start. If you have an established compost pile, spring is a great time to turn your pile and get it aerated.
11) Harvest spring flowers! It's so exciting that anemones and daffodils/narcissus are sprouting and bringing joy to all who see them. We also have pieris, camelias, and hellebores that combine to make beautiful bouquets.
There is so much potential in the garden as spring nears. All of nature seems to be humming with possibility. May you harness that potential as you tend to your garden and prepare it for its best growing season yet.