After being cooped up all winter, we all have visions of the weed-free, bountiful garden we’ll have this year.
However, when we can finally venture out in weather warm enough to spare wearing a knit hat and flannel pajama bottoms, further investigation might show that while we are ready to garden, our garden is not ready for us.
This winter seemed like non-stop wind storms, so if your garden is anything like mine, you’ll want to set aside a stick cleanup before you get into anything else.
Save some of the longer, straighter pieces for staking up plants that might need support later.
Take note of any spots that seemed muddier than others to try to smooth or rake out.
Our snow drifted so bad it certainly seemed to create some unevenness in the ground.
If you will be tilling your garden bed (or if you aren’t) grab the large, set-in weeds.
You know, the ones you need to crouch and tug with both hands — and try not to go flying!
As you toss these to the side, of course be cautious of where you throw them — weeds thrown into compost will rise to terrorize your garden another season!
Turning your soil is a great step, at whatever capacity you are able to do so.
(I’ve been in my garden spot for a handful of years now and still never fail to turn up a brick or old clay pipe from the old days. We were able to obtain a set of landscape rakes to pull behind an ATV at a yardsale which works great for a modest size garden. Plus, my boys never seem to mind that “chore.”)
No matter what gadgetry or lack thereof you till with, it’s still good to go around with a rake and hit some of the bigger dirt clods.
If you have a mature compost heap ready to use, this is the time to incorporate those materials as well.
Kitchen Table Work
Now that the beginning steps are done outside, grab some coffee and do a little groundwork inside.
Consider and be realistic in what you want to grow this year.
Review what you had last year and for each ask “Did it grow?” “How much of my family’s time did it take to grow?” “Did it grow more than we could use or did we wish we had planted more?” “Did it make it into a meal at any point?” (Every year I seem to have endless tomatoes that I feel the need to can into sauce, only for my pickiest and largest child, i.e. my husband, to tell me he somewhat prefers store bought.)
Did you run out of doorsteps to leave squash on?
Were the peppers too spicy for your taste? These are things to be evaluating as you make your wish list this year.
If you didn’t do it last year, hang on to the seed packets and order list from this year to review the varieties you purchased (even if it’s just in a crumpled heap on my planting table).
Did one variety seem to fail you while another flourished? Or didn’t suit your cooking style? (Last year, we grew trendy purple carrots, which would then turn our crockpot soups this winter into purple “Monster Mush!” so actually, I think that might have worked out?)
Check the dates, too.
If you stored them correctly, some of your seeds might still be ok to use, especially if you are using heirloom varieties.
As you go through this process, remember, there’s nothing wrong with scaling back or moving your focus.
Chat with a gardener with decades more experience than you, and chances are, they are changing or rotating out a problem plant from their garden assortment.
Focusing on a few crops of what you and your family will consume will give you more time to put effort into making them successful.
Tool time
While we tend to focus our shopping and ordering attention to new plants and seeds, take your tool inventory too.
Did you bend a spade digging up potatoes or has your rake been commandeered for miscellaneous and mysterious toddler projects?
See what you are missing and treat yourself to checking out the new fangled inventions. (One of my favorites was my Mother’s Day gift last year — a crazy-looking gadget called the “Garden Weasel,” which is great for dead roots that are really burrowed in.)
Think of anything else you’ll need while you are “in town” too. (For whatever reason tomato cages at the Milby household seldom make it to a second year.)
So track yours down now, check your trellis materials, and make sure you have enough for the numbers you’ll be growing this year.
Taking time to prep your garden will get you ready for the gardener’s “most wonderful time of the year!” (And feel free to sing that as you pull weeds — I know I do!)