Spring is Sprung

 

April 25, 2019

Courtesy of Mike Heath

Mike Heath planting peppers

It's time! Remember a few weeks ago when I asked if you could smell it? If you could feel it? I was talking about spring. That time of year when life is restored to the earth and the grass starts to turn green again. Spring has a feel and a smell all its own. There isn't much that can compare to it. And now it's time. Spring is here.

It's time to start putting all the planning and design that we've been working on all winter into action. To break out the shovels and rakes and hoes and start getting down to business. That wonderful business of starting our vegetable gardens and those beautiful flower beds. It's time to get dirty and sweaty and tired. But just think of the wonderful feelings and emotions that come with it. For me, it's almost like going back to my childhood playing in the dirt. Granted, the dirt I played in would grow almost anything. Throw a seed out, or a cutting, and pretty soon there would be a new plant. Well...not quite like that, but it didn't take much to grow most plants. You see, I grew up in northern Florida and the ground is just, well, fertile. And moist. The problem is that everybody can grow anything. It doesn't take effort and not even much time. The most time spent in the garden or flower beds was weeding. No skill or even knowledge needed. It's quite a bit different here. We have to work at growing anything worth growing. In Wyoming, we can take pride in what we grow because not everyone is willing to take the time or gain the knowledge and skills necessary to grow vegetables and flowers in our climate.


Now that's it's time to get started, and I've given you the pep talk before the game, let's go over a few things to remember before you bring out your tools. Remember first, that it's only time to get ready. Don't plant just yet. Let's prepare the ground first. Hopefully, you've already had your soil tested and you're ready to add those recommended amendments to bring it up to its full potential. If you have a relatively small space, now is the time to use your shovel and start breaking up the ground. Wait until the ground is somewhat dry before you start digging, though. Even though you won't cause as much of a problem with a shovel as a tiller, you'll still compact the soil and make it harder to work the seed in later. Once the ground is somewhat dry, add your amendments and start turning it. If you have a larger area, a tiller will make life much easier. I want to caution you about the tiller. Don't engage in "recreational" tilling. That means tilling the ground until it's dust. Yes, that will make planting easier, but it also will compact the soil as soon as it gets wet and you've made a large brick instead of a garden bed. Overtilling will also damage the ecosystem in the soil. That's the soil bacteria, good insects, mycorrhiza, etc. that we discussed just couple of weeks ago. We need to keep that ecosystem intact and healthy. Till once and let it be. If you're using a shovel, you'll also have to rake it to break up the clods into a workable state. At this point, it won't hurt if you have to wait a few days before you plant.


It'll be time to plant the cool weather plants such as lettuce, cabbage, spinach and other leafy vegetables in just a couple of weeks. Some of the flowering plants (flower bed types) can be planted about now. If you put your bulbs in last fall, you should already have some of those, such as crocuses, daffodils, tulips and such, coming up and blooming now. I even have some iris plants breaking through. But they won't bloom for another four to six weeks. Check the instructions on your flowers to see when they should be planted. If you've planned your garden right, you can have colorful blossoms all through the spring and summer and even into the fall. I hope you included plants for pollinators in your garden plans. Even if you have a vegetable garden, colorful flowers are a blessing and some, such as marigolds and nasturtiums, will help with control of harmful insects, but will attract the beneficial insects to help with pollination. In other words, they're good for your veggies.

If you're planting outdoors, wait until the very end of May to the first week in June to plant your veggies. I used to think (many years ago) that I could plant early and the seed would simply wait for the right time to sprout. I finally learned that just isn't true. But I had to go through a lot of seed before I learned my lesson. The ground temperature needs to be about 85 degrees for the seeds to germinate. Otherwise, they'll sit in the ground and rot. Or, in my case, the ground squirrels will have feast. If you want to plant early, you can increase the soil temperature more quickly by using a black fabric between your rows or by planting in holes cut into the fabric. One of the fabrics that works well is the covering that comes on bunks of lumber. Most lumber yards will give it away if you ask. Otherwise they have to dispose of it. The only caution is that it isn't water permeable. It's made to keep lumber dry and that means it'll keep the ground dry, too.

Depending on what you are planting and the layout of your garden or flower beds will determine your watering method. For vegetables, you want to keep the water at the roots of the plants only. That means no sprinklers or overhead watering. Not only will you lose about 40 percent of your water to evaporation, but you'll also be setting your veggies up for mold and fungus. They need to keep their leafy parts as dry as possible. So a drip irrigation or soaker will work best in a vegetable garden. Timers are another worthwhile investment. They will ensure that you don't overwater and with the right timer, you can even set it to turn the water on when you aren't home or if, like me, you tend to forget to water at the right time. Another caution here. Don't overwater. Check your soil with your finger. Moist is all you want. Not mud.

I started planting in my greenhouse this week and, so far, have about 600 or so peppers and geraniums planted. I've barely gotten started, but my wrists are telling me it's time to quit. Can't do. Guess I just have the fever and can't seem to stop. If you don't have a greenhouse, control your fever. It's not quite time to plant outdoors just yet. But it is time to get the garden beds ready for your plants. And don't forget the Laramie County Master Gardeners Mother's Day Plant Sale. We have it every year the day before Mother's Day (May 11th this year) at the Archer Complex. This is our one fundraiser of the year where we make the money to pay for our projects throughout the year, such as the plantings at the Pine Bluffs columbarium. So come out and see us. It's a great event for Moms and everyone else who enjoys gardening. And if you have any questions, ask a Master Gardener. It's what we do and there will be plenty of us at the Plant Sale. I hope to see you there.

 

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