Those with green thumbs may be itching to get their gardens ready for the spring season. Two local shops are happy to provide some tips just in time.
Ryan Peterson of the Jamestown Biodome Project in downtown Jamestown said gardeners should begin preparing their gardens as the weather warms up.
“It’s a good time to clean your garden area and amend your soil with nutrients, compost or lime in advance of planting, giving them time to work in,” Peterson said. “Depending on the size of your garden, you may want to consider a soil test to see what it may need. You can mulch or cover the area you intend to plant to help keep down spring weeds while you wait for planting weather. There are even some things that can be planted early such as onions, garlic, snow peas, flower bulbs and several root crops.”
Some gardeners opt to start their seeds inside to be prepared for the gardening season. Peterson offered a few tips on this process as well.
“Use a good seed starting or potting soil,” he said. “Keep your soil moist at all times until seeds germinate. Keep them warm, I like to place my trays up high where the room is warmer, a warm windowsill, or on a heat mat for seedlings. Give them plenty of light, a window that receives good sun for much of the day or under plant grow lighting. Read the seed packages and research the timing.
“Some seeds need to be started at different times or just do not transplant well and will be better off directly sown when the time is right. We are starting peppers and cold crops such as Kale and broccoli currently and we’ll start tomatoes in a week or two.”
Aside from plants, a big part of the gardening process is what the plants are grown in the soil. Peterson said this is one of the biggest factors for success.
“If you have heavy clay soil it is going to have poor drainage and missing nutrients. You will want to add organic matter, sand or compost, to loosen the soil or consider using a raised bed instead,” he said. “We love to use compost in our garden as a good source of nutrients, to break up the soil or add matter to sandy soils. If you have a good source of composted manure, it is also a great amendment. If using fertilizer, we recommend a good all-purpose organic source such as Espoma garden tone or Coast of Maine All-purpose fertilizer. Avoid heavy salt-based chemical fertilizers and be careful not to over-fertilize.”
When it comes to getting plants into the ground, Peterson recommends giving plants the space they need to grow over the season.
“Many first-time gardeners overcrowd their garden underestimating how much the plants will grow,” he said. “Be patient, our last average frost date is May 21 and we’ve experienced them later. As the season progresses, plants will slowly use all of the nutrients available to them, and you will want to feed them with a liquid nutrient or top dress the soil with fertilizer or compost — worm castings are great.”
Peterson said gardeners should always be vigilant for bugs and disease in their gardens over the season. He said all may not be lost for those who find signs of disease or pests.
“Nature has it out for the gardener, but if caught early many problems can be alleviated before they get too bad to fix,” he said. “Powdery mildew, the white substance that plagues our squash and cucumber leaves every summer, can be kept at bay using a mix of baking soda and water. Don’t get discouraged if something fails. Some things are harder to grow than others or grow better during certain times, gardens can be a great learning experience.”
Mike Krauth, owner of Mike’s Nursery in Lakewood, had some tips to share on gardening as well.
“For inground planting, we recommend adding a few inches of compost and blending in the first round of granular organic nutrition which is broken down by microbes and bacteria in the soil,” Krauth said. “There are blends available as well as individual components such as bone meal, alfalfa meal and kelp meal. Throughout the season, these organics can be applied as a top dressing or gardeners can use water-soluble nutrients.”
For those with less yard space, container gardening can also be an option. Krauth suggests choosing the proper containers for the job.
“For container gardening, it’s important to choose a light potting mix with good drainage and aeration, such as FoxFarm Happy Frog or Espoma Organic,” he said. “Seedlings should be kept moist but not soggy, and people can utilize seedling heat mats and humidity domes to aid in the germination process. Once true leaf sets develop, feed with a gentle fertilizer and consider using rooting enhancers or stimulants.”