Get the jump on the spring garden

Energized by the first truly spring-like week we’ve had this season, I spent a lot of time in the garden these past few days. Yes, I know there’s still snow in the shady spots and the ground alternates between frozen and muddy muck, but there’s still a lot you can do in the early spring garden to save time and energy later in the season.

A few things to do now, rather than later:

  • A general whole-yard pick-up. This can include dog poop, trash that has blown into your yard, that old rusted fire pit you meant to throw out last year, and toys that have been buried under the snow since October. Doing this first is guaranteed to make you feel better about being in the yard for the next couple of tasks on the list…
  • Clear out your garden beds. This means pulling any weeds that have started (yes, I pulled my first dandelion this weekend), removing dead plant matter from last year, and, if it’s not too wet, turning the soil.
  • Turn the compost. If you haven’t turned it all winter, it may be frozen. Even if it’s not frozen, it may not be ready to be sifted and spread on the garden beds. If it is ready, consider yourself lucky. Sift through it to sort out anything that hasn’t broken down (you know, like the avocado pits you were sure would break down if you threw them in the compost!) and spread at approximately 1″ thickness across your garden beds. This is a great time of year to start a compost pile if you haven’t already, and you can find a lot of resources on starting a compost bin right here on TV.
  • If you’ve tackled clearing out the beds and turning the compost, you may be ready for the next step: spreading an inch or so of compost across your (cleared out) beds to provide fertilizer for the soon-to-come vegetables. Colorado’s soil is notoriously low in organic matter, so a good application of compost in spring and fall can help you build the soil and improve its texture over time. Besides, it’s way better than putting methane-producing food waste in the landfills…
  • Cut back ornamental grasses, shape shrubs (especially butterfly bushes, Russian sage, and lavender, which can get unruly with out a little pruning), prune your trees as needed, and cut back other perennial flowers. Do not, however, cut back your roses yet. Cutting them back encourages them to leaf out, and it’s still a bit too early for that.
  • Plant!! Yes, even if you have to clear some snow away to do so, it’s time to plant peas, fava beans, chard, and spinach. Get them in the ground now so that they can germinate when the soil reaches the perfect temperature.
  • Start seedlings indoors. Need some guidance? Check out my seed-starting primer.
  • Clean up your garden tools, mend tomato/pepper cages & cold frames/cloches, check your drip irrigation for visible winter damage and get organized–we’re going to be busy in April!!!