Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

Jan 22
5 min read
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Transplanting spring flowers

The days are getting longer and it is time to start your gardens! But wait…I still have snow outside. Is it really time to start gardening? Yes! A full spring garden starts by planning ahead and starting seeds indoors. If you wait until your final frost date to start sowing seeds, you will miss out on several weeks of potential growth and production. While many plants require the warmth of the summer months, others thrive on the cool spring temperatures. It is important to get an early start to enjoy a full spring harvest. Check out these spring gardening tasks for a successful garden harvest all year long!

Plan Your Garden

If you haven’t already, start by planning out your garden space. Consider what fruits and vegetables you like most. Fill your garden with things you are excited to eat and cook with. Consider plants that take a long time to mature as well as ones that are quick to harvest. I like to think of my space in terms of quick spring harvested plants and warm season transplants. Many people are under utilizing their garden space by leaving growable space empty and thinly planted. Just because you have planned something like tomatoes that take months to mature and need to be started indoors doesn’t mean you can’t grow something in the surrounding space while they are still young and compact. Interplanting with spring harvested vegetables like salad greens, radishes, and small carrots can get you an early harvest while utilizing space the summer crops are not yet large enough to use.

Cover Crops

If you decide not to sow early spring crops or interplant, consider growing a spring cover crop in beds that are intended for later spring sowing/transplanting. Cover crops can give your garden beds a boost of nutrients, improve soil composition, reduce soil compaction, and more! Just be sure to terminate the cover crop at least 2-4 weeks before planting in that space. This rest period is required to allow the cover crop to break down. If you plant your garden directly after terminating a cover crop without a propper rest period, your transplants and new seedlings may suffer as the cover crop can tie up nutrients in the soil during the early stages of breakdown.

Start Flower Seeds

It is important to grow flowers along with your vegetables to encourage good pollination. They also provide something you can harvest for your table while the fruits and vegetables are developing. Flowers often require several more weeks of growth than vegetables do before transplanting. Be sure to plan ahead. Check out the How to Start Seeds Indoors blog for step by step instructions that walk you through the seed starting process.

Start Vegetable Seeds

At an appropriate time for each crop, start your vegetable seeds indoors. Keep in mind not all vegetable seeds should be started at the same time. Check out our vegetable growing guide for information about each crop type.

Prepare Garden Beds

Before planting, it is important to do some soil preparation. When growing in the same soil year after year nutrients can become depleted. In order to know what is happening in the soil, collect a soil sample and have it tested by your local extension office. After analyzing a soil sample they will provide you with a report that details information such as your soils pH, high or low nutrient levels, among other valuable information. Once you know what your soil needs, amend it. Most garden beds will benefit from applications of compost or worm castings. If your bed is too basic, consider adding some elemental sulfur. For soils that are too acidic, you may want to add some limestone powder. Soil with a pH that is either too high or low can lead to nutrients being made unavailable to your plants, even if it is located within your soil.

Harden Off Plant Starts and Transplant

Before transplanting your new seedlings, be sure to set them outside for increasing amounts of time over the course of 1-2 weeks. This process is called hardening off. When plants are started indoors their surroundings are very controlled. They likely have not experienced swift temperature changes, strong winds, among other environmental factors that they will need to endure once outside. Without these imposing forces, the plants have not developed their defense systems that allow them to cope. Exposing them to the naturally changing conditions found outside for increasing amounts of time allows them to strengthen their cell walls and learn to adjust to their environment. Simply transplanting them without this adjustment period can lead to broken stems due to wind or rain damage, greater transplant shock, and death or stress due to their inability to adjust to regular temperature fluctuations. When ready, transplant seedlings that have been started indoors, being careful not to damage their root systems.

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