The seasons have changed, winter has trickled away and has left room for the winds of spring to grace us once again. The other day, my room mate asked me what I was up to at this time of year in the garden. There are a few steps to preparing your garden beds for when the risk of frost has past– we must prepare the soil as well as the seeds.
Step 1: Clearing and cleaning the garden
Are there any annual plants that have been left in your garden over the winter? If so, you can remove these from the soil. Are there any perennials that need tending to? Some might need some pruning, something to stand up with. So the first thing I did on my visit was to scope out what was still in the garden, cleaned or cleared, or left some things as they were.
Step 2: Set up garden beds
Once you’ve cleaned up your beds you can prepare them for planting. If you want to expand your garden or start one, here is what you’ve got to do. This is a technique known as Lasagna gardening:
- Lay down news paper or cardboard: This will help suppress anything that is already growing there.
- Lay down dry leaves: this will add carbon into your garden bed
- Add compost/soil: this is the last layer of your lasagna garden bed, and is where you will be planting your seeds or seedlings. Mixing in compost or using compost for your top soil has many advantages because it helps improve the quality of the soil and therefore the quality of your plants. Within a handful of compost are tons of beneficial bacteria, fungus and microbes that are instrumental to having a healthy soil food web, one strong enough to allow plants to thrive within it.
- Optional: lay stones around the edges of the garden bed, this serves to outline your garden, help the soil store more heat, and adds some aesthetics to the garden bed.
Voila, you have a new garden bed!
Step 3: Start your seeds indoors
Now depending on what you like to plant in your garden, you may or may not be starting your own seeds indoors, if you haven’t already. Some people start everything from flowers, to squashes, to cucumbers, lettuce, herbs, and so on. Personally, I feel like there are only a few plants that are worth starting indoors: trees, exotic flowers and plants, and nightshades (for example, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers). Once you source your seeds, you can start those you want at home.
These are the basic materials you will need:
- Seeds - Soil/ Compost
- A warm, sunny, and south-facing window space
- Pots: There are a variety of pots that you can use, ceramic, clay, biodegradable materials such as card board and eggshells, or plastic. If you go with clay or any other biodegradable materials, you can transplant the entire pot and plant into your garden when it’s time to transfer them. This allows you to avoid causing any damage to the root system of the plant as you transplant. The cardboard and eggshells will begin to decompose and release nutrients that will enhance the underground support web for the plants. The clay pots will hold in water for those plants that like lots of moisture, and will eventually blend into the rest of the soil matrix.
- Non-chlorinated water: leave a supply of water out over night, exposed to the air. In the morning, the chlorine will have evaporated from the water. Use this water when you start your seeds. Before you water your plants, stir the water for a minute to re-oxygenate it. Chlorine will kill any useful bacteria or fungi in the soil, which is not good for the plants, whom depend on these primary decomposers’ services. Remember to check on your seedlings everyday, and don’t forget to water them as they need.
Step 4: Sow hardy plants
Some things like the last few frosts of the season, like wild flowers and alliums for example. If you have any of these hardier plants, early spring is the time to start direct seeding them. Plant them one by one, or cast them out from your hand onto the soil.