Winter is coming to an end, so you better get your gardening on and start preparing now for your spring planting. Before you know it, temperatures will start to warm, and those buds you have been waiting for all season will start to bloom. Spring brings with it new life and a new opportunity to get your herb garden in full swing. There are some things you can start to do now to get ready for spring planting and things you can put on your calendar to do as the days and the weeks pass. Here is all the information you will need to get started on how to prepare your garden for spring.
One of the first things you need to do is determine when the last spring frost will be in your area. Most of the time, you can use a farmer’s almanac to predict when this will be for your area. There are also several websites with estimators that can determine the date by ZIP code. Knowing the estimated date is important, as it will help you determine when you can start planting. You also want to take stock of your existing garden, noting:
- How much space do you have?
- How much of the garden is in sun?
- How much shaded or partly-shaded room do you have?
These factors will play a role in determining which plants and how many of each you can get into the ground.
Choose Your Plants
As any herb gardener knows, some plants thrive in spring weather and others do better indoors or even over the winter. Newbies may need a little help identifying which herbs will be best to plant as the cooler temperatures dissipate. If you are looking to direct-sow seeds this spring, here are the plants we have tried that work:
- Parsley: This can take up to a month to germinate. Soak the seeds overnight and plant them in raised beds. A week before the last spring frost, you can also set out transplants that are roughly eight weeks old. Space plants 8 to 10 inches apart.
- Cilantro: Sow these seeds no more than two weeks before the last spring frost. These will grow best in full sun. If you live in a particularly warm climate, you might want to make sure the plants get some afternoon shade.
- Chervil: Space these seedlings 6 to 9 inches apart in a shady section of your garden, sowing the seeds roughly three to four weeks before the last spring frost.
- Dill: These plants need a lot of sun and a little more room. Direct-sow the seeds four to five weeks before the last spring frost and space the seeds up to 18 inches apart.
- Chive: You can actually direct-sow these seeds or even use transplants, so long as everything is spaced 8 to 12 inches apart in either full sun or part shade. Seeds should be placed in clumps and six-week-old transplants should be put out a month before the last spring frost.
There are a number of other herbs that you can sow in spring, but these are the best for direct sowing.
Prepare Your Tools Ready
Your poor gardening tools. We know they have been sitting in your garage in their comfortable cases all winter long, just awaiting the day you put on your knee pads and use them again. Before you put them to work, make sure they are good to go. First, they should be clean in order to prevent spreading any kind of fungus or insect eggs into your garden. Do this by:
- Hosing off spades, rakes, hoes and trowels to remove soil
- Remove any heavy clay by scrubbing with a hard-bristle brush
- Thoroughly dry each tool with a soft cloth
- Wipe down tools that do not come into contact with the soil, like pruning shears and knives
Prep Your Garden
One of the most important things you will do for your garden is get the soil ready for planting. It isn’t glamorous, but it is a necessity. Starting from scratch, your soil is probably about 90 percent mineral residue and only 10 percent organic matter. To really get your garden going, you need to add organic matter to it. For example, getting some earthworms to aerate the earth will help release nutrients that will help your plantings grow.
Another way to get your soil healthy is to add compost. This is something you can do year-round by keeping a compost pile. Just about any kind of plant material can be added to your compost bin:
- Grass clippings
- Vegetable peels
Be sure to keep perennial weeds or pesticide-treated material out of your compost. You can mulch your garden with the compost before you even plant, and keep doing so throughout spring to encourage good soil health.
Create a Boundary
One of the last things you will do to get ready for spring is to create a crisp edge around your garden. This will help keep your lawn from crawling all over your plants. And it doesn’t hurt that it gives your garden a clean, polished look as well. If you have a raised-bed garden or one that falls in-line, it is beneficial to use brick or metal barriers, but you can also use a simple technique that we love to employ to keep harmful lawn grasses at bay:
- Use a sharp shovel to cut several inches into the sod along the edge of your garden bed
- Make a 45-degree cut back toward that first cut, lifting out the wedge to make a shallow trench, sprinkling loose topsoil back into the hole without refilling it.
- Apply mulch along that edge without totally filling the trench.
As your lawn grass roots grow toward the bed, they are going to be stopped by the straight edge of the trench.
By getting your tools ready and determining your plantings, you can get your herb garden ready for spring. Happy planting!
Lauren Hill is an avid gardener. During the long winter months, she finds her gardening happiness in writing for The Growers Exchange.