Preparing for Growth: Get your garden ready for the growing season

If you’re anticipating large yields of big, beautiful vegetables from your garden this summer, a few steps in early spring can help make your dreams come true.

As soon as the ground thaws, you can get a soil test done. Once you find out the pH and fertility level of your soil, you can add the correct type of compost to build up the soil.

Testing your garden soil is especially important if you are starting a new garden.

Many garden centers can send soil samples into a lab for you or you can purchase a test kit so your can test your own soil. Many County Extension offices also do soil testing. The lab can make recommendations as to what you should work into your soil to bring it into balance. The test kits also come with a booklet of information to help you analyze the results.

You can also let the lab know what types of crops you plan to grow and they can recommend the best way to tailor your soil to that plant’s needs.

As for working this material into your soil, you still need to wait several weeks before tilling is recommended.

The ground needs to be dry before you can work it. A way to test this is to grab a handful of soil. If you can squeeze it into a ball, it is still too wet. If it crumbles in your hand, it’s workable. If you till your garden while the soil is too wet, you’ll pack down the soil and cause compaction and the roots won’t grow well and the water won’t drain properly.

If you didn’t do it in the fall, now is the time to clean up any left over plant debris from your garden. Some plants, like squash vines, are hard to till in and won’t have time to decompose in the soil before planting time. It is better to pull them and throw them on your compost heap.

If your garden is too small for your to rotate your crops effectively, it is more important for you to maintain good sanitation. Remove the foliage rather than till it in to prevent the spread of disease.

Early spring is also an ideal time to prune fruit trees. You can prune through the end of March.

Fruit trees and vines can be pruned now, too. So can ornamental trees and shrubs. Just be sure not to prune any spring-flowering shrubs now or you’ll trim off the blooms. It is bests to wait to prune these plants after they flower.

By mid-April in the Midwest, it’ll be time to spray your fruit trees with dormant spray. This is an oily spray that coats the branches of the tree and kills any insect eggs that may be there. It will also prevent certain diseases. You’ll have a better fruit crop.

Early spring is also the time to plan your garden. This is a great time to start seeds indoors. And you can plan the layout of your garden.