Springtime in Iowa can be a bit unpredictable, but when the weather starts to turn warm and the sun stays out, it’s a critical time to set your garden up for a productive year. The question is, what’s the best way to get your garden beds ready?
The first thing you should do is build up the fertility in your soil and loosen it. The best time to start this process is a few weeks before you begin planting.
To start, add in any cover crops and cover your garden with a blanket of good organic compost. Use either a half-inch or full inch layer. The compost will freshen your soil and add nutrient-rich organic matter, which in turn helps the soil retain moisture. Looking for a new source for organic compost? Check your local garden center or better yet, search Craigslist for local gardeners or farmers who are selling their compost.
Once you’ve added compost to your soil, the next step is to add organic fertilizer. Determine how much fertilizer is necessary by researching what your plants need. Generally speaking, light feeders with shallow roots such as lettuce need a small amount of fertilizer raked into the top inches of soil.
Your widely spaced plant such as cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers have bigger appetites. To give them the nutrients they need, add a mixture of compost and organic fertilizer to the planting holes before you place the seedlings. The heaviest feeders such as sweet corn need a lot of fertilizer, so dig deep trenches with a hoe and place the fertilizer there so the germinating seeds have easy access.
Look for affordable options
When prepping your garden for spring, avoid purchasing overpriced organic fertilizers. To keep some money in your pocket, look for free grass clippings or other low-cost options such as yard waste compost. Don’t be afraid to add new crops to your garden this year – adding new plants to the mix can be an exciting!
Those of us who have greenhouses need to make sure it’s in tip-top shape before we starting our spring planting. Soon your greenhouse will be stocked full with seedling trays and cuttings so sweep away any dirt and plant matter on the floor. Take the time to disinfect benches and the inside of the glass so any pests that survived the winter will be eliminated. To dry the greenhouse, ventilate it well over the next few days so it dries completely.
Fix garden fences, walls, and posts
Even though it’s still a little chilly outside, take the time to fix any broken structures in your garden. Any broken tool or structure is best fixed now so you can spend more time in your garden this season. Don’t forget to treat your wooden garden structures with a preservative so it stays healthy during the dry times.
Determine your compost corner
If you haven’t already established a compost pile, designate a space for it this year. You could use a corner of your garden, build one yourself with railroad ties or bits of wood, or a ready-made compost bin for the job. Once the season is underway, use this space to place your garden waste and other organic matter that will benefit your garden. Turn the compost pile and add to it often.