Get a head start on the growing season

For many gardeners, transitioning from winter to spring brings the desire to reconnect with the earth and producing food. Because gardening is so much more than planting seeds and caring for growing plants, the early spring weeks are easily filled preparation tasks. But, go easy. Blaine Mathews, owner of Home Team Gardens says, “Don’t go all out the first day. Stretch a little and ease into the work.”

Make repairs

The winter months may have been hard on your raised beds, fences, and trellises. Now is the time to repair any bowed or leaning sides or broken fence posts. In raised beds, the soggy soil left over from winter may have caused bowing and leaning. If it did, dig back the soil and drive new stakes on the inside of the sideboards leaning slightly inward.

Clear leaves and debris

As the weather transitions from snowy to rainy, ensure the spring rains have adequate runoff. Clear eaves and other debris from drainage areas. Because they are often planted very shallow, spring seedlings do best in soil that drains well; flooding and backup can wash the seeds away before they even sprout.

Start seedlings indoors

Mathews says, “Think realistically about how much space you have to sow your seeds.” Seeds can be started in almost any container including open flats, small pots, plastic cups, and more. Once they begin to root and develop leaves, they’ll need to be transplanted to allow for further root growth. Planting plants (instead of seeds) in your garden can offer benefits including earlier harvest and more robust plants altogether. Seeds that typically transplant well, and therefore can be more easily started indoors include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, kale, lettuce, onion, peppers, and tomatoes. But, Mathews says, “Don't let the warmth of March and April fool you. Our average last spring frost along much of the Front Range is May 5th. Try to resist the temptations of planting outside before then; with the exceptions of the cool season veggies."

Prepare your compost

You’ve been collecting and nurturing your compost the past several months, now it’s time to put it to work. Taking time in spring to build fertility and loosen soil will set you up for a more productive year. A few weeks before you plant, blanket your garden bed with at least a half-inch layer of good compost — a full inch is even better. The compost will provide the soil with a fresh infusion of nutrient-rich organic matter and improve the soil’s ability to handle water and nourish your crops. Pounding rain, gravity and other forces can cause soil to become compacted over time, so loosening it before planting should be a priority. In established beds, you can use a broad fork to break up the soil, in areas with tough, clay soil a tiller might be a more useful tool. The fluffier the soil, the easier it is for the roots to penetrate. “Fluffy, well aerated soil is the key to growing healthy plants," says Mathews.

Educate yourself

One useful online resource does a good job compiling local resources and events: www.coloradogardening.com.

The Gardens on Spring Creek - The Gardens ( www.fcgov.com/gardens/ ) offer numerous options for kids and families that will help prepare, educate, and motivate your family as you look forward to planning your spring sow. Costs are minimal, and discounts are often available for members of The Gardens on Spring Creek.