(Chelsea Update would like to thank Jennifer Fairfield, owner of the Garden Mill, for the information in this column. Part two will run on Saturday.)
While you’re waiting for spring to really arrive, there’s still plenty to do:
If you have anything just getting growing outside, keep row covers handy, as the nights look to be quite cold. Keep in mind that new growth is more tender than old, so your plants are more vulnerable at this time. Row covers can help protect your plants from frost and freeze, by keeping the warmth of the soil around the plant. Some plants can tolerate the cold more than others, but most won’t do well with the predicted mid- to low-twenties temperatures.
Test Your Soil
Before starting to plant outdoors, test your soil (we have a very easy and reliable testing kit in stock). Your soil conditions change over time, so it’s best to do this every year. Knowing what your soil is lacking makes giving it what it needs to support good plant growth so much easier.
Once you know what your soil needs, come in to talk with us about fertilizer recommendations. We carry a line of organic products made right here in Michigan, and are sure to have just what your soil needs. If you want to learn even more about your soil – such as whether or not your soil has high lead levels – consider a comprehensive soil test from MSU Extension.
What seeds do you have?
Take stock of what seeds you have left over from last year to make sure you have what you need for this year. The warm weather had everyone out buying seeds early, and we are already sold out of some varieties. If there is something in particular you are looking for, it is possible we may be able to get it in for you – just ask. If we can’t get it for you, we may have some ideas to help you source it locally.
Get your garden tools ready
Make sure your garden tools are ready for the season. Sharpen and clean pruners, loppers, and shovels, if you didn’t get to that task before putting them away for the winter. Check gloves and garden hoses for holes.
Check garden supports and stakes to make sure they are in good shape – replace those that won’t make it through the season. Have your lawn mower and other power equipment serviced so that it’s ready to go when you’re ready to mow. And speaking of mowing, now is a great time to think about how you will maintain your lawn over the season, and how you can help pollinators while doing so.
When the temperatures head back up, pull mulch away from plants that are starting to poke up out of the ground, but be prepared to cover the plants back up if we get another really cold snap. Add a top dressing of compost, after you pull the mulch back, to help improve soil structure and fertility.
Once the soil warms up – usually by mid-May, though who knows this year – add more mulch, as needed, over the plant roots to help maintain moisture and suppress weeds.
If you are adding new mulch, wait until the soil has warmed up fully – usually after Mother’s Day, or even as late as Memorial Day weekend. If you put down new mulch too soon, you can actually keep the soil from warming up, and slow your plants’ growth and flowering.
(Part two will run tomorrow.)