Successful gardeners know vegetable and flower gardening is a year-round endeavor. Even in the deepest winter there is plenty to be done to ensure a bountiful harvest.
Garden maintenance begins from late fall into early winter. This is the time to prepare plants, soil and equipment to weather the harsh winter months.
Work compost and organic matter into the garden beds to replenish nutrients used by this year’s plants. Add mulch around any vegetables not yet harvested. Protect woody plants and young trees from winter animal damage by wrapping their bases with wire mesh.
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Take down and store stakes, hoops and temporary trellises.Take up drip-irrigation hoses. Drain and store them indoors to prevent cracking in freezing temperatures. Add heating elements to birdbaths and protect concrete statuary from absorbing moisture by under-laying gravel foundations or pedestals.
The Winter Garden
The late winter months are prime maintenance time for garden tools. Replenish mulch as needed and trim trees and shrubs. You can begin sowing seed indoors late February to early March.
In the garden shed it is time to check cold frames for weathering and replace panes or rotting frames. Inspect, repair, clean, oil, and sharpen all garden tools.
Revisit landscaping plans and garden layouts. Make plans to rotate annually planted vegetable beds. Plants belonging to the same families, such as cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts, are susceptible to the same pests and diseases.
Many of these pest and spores over-winter in the soil and emerge in the spring to feast on the new crops. Rotating crops each year decreases the likelihood of a destructive infestation.
The Spring Garden
Early spring is the season of renewal. Remove old winter mulch and begin to turn the soil in vegetable garden beds as frost layers diminish.
Add compost, manure and fertilizers to vegetable beds prior to planting. Cut back perennial plants in flowerbeds and cultivate the soil around them. Start planting cool-season vegetables like lettuce and peas after the last frost. Begin weeding as soon as the first shoots appear.
Mid-to-late spring is the season of intense planting and weed control. Pinch off dead blooms on daffodils and tulips and divide bulbs and perennial plants in over-crowded flowerbeds.
Plant cool-season seedlings that were started indoors and direct-sow flower seeds. Roll out irrigation hoses and begin monitoring soil moisture. Water your garden at least an inch a week if dry spells occur. Set stakes and trellises to support vines or heavy plants. Turn compost piles as needed.
The Summer Garden
Early summer is the season of critical water use and pest control. Continue to monitor soil moisture levels and pull weeds. Patrol for insects both beneficial and problematic.
Deadhead dead blossoms and prune shrubs that have finished flowering. Harvest early vegetables and fertilize the later ones. Plan menus according to your vegetable and fruit harvest time-line. Collect recipes for incorporating the garden’s bounty.
Mid-to-late summer is the season of intervention. Continue to weed, water and mulch as needed. Plants will either be thriving or not and you will need to take measures to protect your harvest.
Plants that are not thriving need a fish emulsion or liquid fertilizer treatment. Plants showing signs of disease should be dug up and discarded. Continue to monitor for pest invasions. Make preparations for showing flowers or vegetables in the county fair. Clean and check canning equipment.
The Fall Garden
Early-to mid-fall is the season of harvest, preservation and compost. Start a compost pile or add to it. Throw all unused produce, grass clippings, trimmings and weeds removed from the garden onto the compost pile.
Begin to balance the garden soil’s pH and nutrient levels. Plant perennials, groundcovers, trees and spring bulbs. Pot kitchen herbs like rosemary and chives to bring indoors. Harvest late-season vegetables. Freeze, can or dry surplus produce.
Understanding the seasonal needs of the home garden can result not only in higher yields and more lush flowerbeds but also in greater gardening satisfaction. By attending to small gardening details in the appropriate seasons the home garden will flourish.