In many areas of California, it has felt like spring since, well, last spring. But even if you’re in an area that enjoys sunshiny days near-year-round (and especially if you’re in a climate that is just now climbing out of the snowdrift), it’s time to think spring—in the garden, that is.
“Here in California, we’re very lucky. California has a very long spring—the longest in the United States,” said Armstrong. “It begins late February and can stretch into June, with our typical, cool, ‘June-gloom’ days. Our long spring gives us plenty of time to get the garden ready for our extra-long summers of outdoor living.”
Preparing the garden for spring involves a few main have-tos in addition to a few great get-tos. Read on for the rundown.
Care for your lawn
You may not be excited about basic lawn care, but you will be excited about the results of spending a little prep time.
The first step is to clean it up, picking up or raking any leaves that have been left behind and also disposing of any dead grass. Then, it’s time to mow, water, and feed it fertilizer in regular rotation. If there are any dead spots in the lawn, you can seed the area, or use sod for instant gratification, and then water the area well.
Stopping weeds can require an all-out assault, all year long, both on your lawn and in your flower and vegetable garden. But there are steps you can take in spring to keep the weeds from killing your buzz.
Pre-emergent herbicides http://www.hgtv.com/gardening/when-to-apply-herbicides/index.html can stop weeds from growing and should be used two to three weeks before you see any weeds. So, if you miss out this year, take note of the date for next year, said HGTV, and then apply a post-emergent product that works by “destroying already established weeds.”
Pull the weeds in your garden beds. The “young spring weeds will be “easiest to pull now,” said eartheasy.
Once you have your lawn looking good, make sure you keep it that way with regular care. The basic principles: mow, water, feed, repeat. And if you start to see dead patches or thatch, which is a layer of dead grass stems, be sure to remove it and re-seed the area. Thatch can kill your lawn by preventing water and air for reaching the roots.
Ditch the old stuff
Does your vegetable garden look more like a vegetable graveyard? “if you didn’t get around to this last fall, pull the old tomato, squash and other plant skeletons to clear the bed for planting, said eartheasy. “Plant skeletons can be added to the compost if you are sure they do not harbor any plant disease.”
Check your soil
Trying to get your soil at the right moisture level is a little like the challenge of the Three Bears (too wet, too dry, just right!). If you’ve had a lot of rain, wait until it dries out again. And use this tip from Organic Gardening to test it: “Pick up about half a cup of earth in your hand. Now squeeze the soil together so that it forms a ball. If the ball of earth can readily be shattered by pressing with your fingers or dropping it from a height of 3 feet or so, it is dry enough to dig. If the ball keeps its shape or breaks only with difficulty into solid sections rather than loose soil, it still contains too much water.”
Now that you’re all prepped and perfect, it’s time for the fun stuff. Get ready to plant.
You don’t have to have a yard the size of the Palace of Versailles to want it to look lush. Planting and caring for your garden, whether you are partial to the kind filled with rose bushes or rutabagas, takes a bit of effort, but a little work in spring can have a big payoff later.
Everything from trees and shrubs to spring flowers, to “warm-season edibles” like tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn, cucumbers are options,” said Better Homes and Gardens.
Because warm season crops “grow best when the days are long and hot (between 65*F and 95*F),” said California Garden Web, cantaloupe, watermelon and snap beans are also good options.
Spring flowers can vary depending on whether you are in a coastal or desert climate, and can include “petunia, vinca, lantana, verbena, calibrachoa…that can take the summer heat,” said Better Homes and Gardens.