It seems like the last frost creeps up on us every year. Suddenly we’re scrambling to plan our crops, build extra raised beds, stock up on quality top-soil, pull out weeds, and buy the onions and potatoes before they’re sold out. For many ambitious gardeners, the first day in the 40s or 50s inspires their gardening itch. Truth be told, it’s never too early to start planning and preparing your yard for the spring gardening season.
Here’s what you should be doing in February:
- Inventory your supplies. Do you have leftover seeds from last year? Do you need to order more? Did you ever replace that broken shovel or the flat tire on your wheelbarrow? Get all your ducks in a row and have your shed organized. It’s super stressful to be digging around trying to find tools when you need them and excruciating to drive from store to store to find what you need because you waited until the last minute.
- Purchase your trellis building materials. Get your trellis supplies early if you have tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, gourds, peas, beans, pumpkins or melons. You can save time and stress by building them indoors so they’re ready when you need them. Even if you’re buying them pre-made, you’ll need to have trellises ready right when you’re first planting these crops.
- Plan. Create a diagram of your garden plan. There is free online software to help you do the job if you so desire. Know exactly what is going where. Decide how much of each plant you want to buy. Choose companion plants that will work together to naturally kill pests and increase your yield. For example, marigolds work well in the corners of your box and crops like tomato and basil are natural partners. Refer to Garden Guides for some excellent suggestions.
- Look up your last frost date. Check out this site to look up your typical last frost date by zip code. Aim for your first plants to go into the ground on this date. Six weeks before plant date is crunch time for gardeners.
- Choose a preservation method. Last year we had oodles of tomatoes that rotted on the vine because we didn’t have a realistic plan for preservation. Our best success came in finding recipes. We converted leftover cucumbers into pickles and many tomatoes into tomato sauce and salsa. Eggplants were cooked up into eggplant parmesan and frozen for a quick weekday meal option.
- Build frames for any new raised beds. Many people like to do this outdoors when the weather gets nicer, but – as we found out the hard way – you don’t want too much of your time consumed by raised bed creation once the season is in full swing — when you should be concentrating on fertilizing, watering and weeding.