Updated: Apr 17
The pollen is flying: that onerous herald and carrier of life as we know it on earth. Your nose may be tickled by its tenacious ability to cling and do it’s critical work in the world. The weeds are working their superpower of colonizing degraded soils, always pushing them toward renewal.
Source Image: Emily Shepherd
You find yourself chewing on the idea of a garden, or perhaps renovating one that laid fallow all winter. You had spotty success in the past and wonder if this year is even worth it. While this Carolina fescue grass is still popping bright green, before the summer humidity overpowers, is the perfect time for prepping toward summer growing success.
Right now- early spring- you need three things to ensure garden success through the next several months. The first is to source the highest quality compost within your price point that you can. These are local secrets that I love to share with my clients as I have tested many of the local soil yards in our area by sending a soil sample to the state lab in Raleigh for a complete analysis. The worst thing you can do for your garden is do use cheap soil, or soil that you have no idea what it’s made of. If you have found that your plants seemed stunted in past seasons, it could be due to an imbalance of pH. Most annual vegetables crave a pH of around six. If the pH is off, it will lock down any nutrients that may be in that soil so the plants cannot access them. So you may have a super-rich soil, but the nutrient simply are not accessible in the amounts that the plants need. The only true way to test your soil pH is to send a soil sample to the state lab in Raleigh, which is a free service between April and November. You need to spread a layer about 4 inches thick on top of any raised bed or planting space and that’s it! You’re ready to plant your spring garden. Do this before each growing season when you transition your garden to fresh crops. No need to till, it will be ready to plant in. Keep adding fresh compost around the plants as they grow about every 3 to 4 weeks throughout the growing season.
The next thing your garden will need from you is consistent watering, especially if you live in areas where the temperatures will rise above 85° regularly during the summer months. I personally do not try to garden with that kind of weather if I do not have an irrigation system in place. There are very few crops that actually crave those temperatures; the rest of the annual veggies that we want to grow will stress above 85°. That means that consistent watering, keeping the roots cool and moist, is the key to growing these. Get a soaker hose at the least, lay it through your garden, and attach it to a timer on your spigot. That hose should come on at 4 AM for one hour at least once a week, more if you are starting seeds. If you haven’t been using timed irrigation on your garden yet you will be amazed at the difference once you start. Overhead watering such as from a sprinkler or handheld nozzle is better than nothing but truly a soaker hose is the most efficient and affordable way to keep your garden consistently moist.
The third thing that your garden will need from you, beyond compost & watering, and I should say enough sunlight, is support. Most people do not make a strong enough trellising system for their annual vegetables, and let me tell you, nothing is worse than going out one morning to find your entire trellis collapsed under the weight of the vine it was (supposed to be) supporting. There are many good how-to videos on YouTube for creating supportive trellises out of cattle panels. And I would even go so far as to say that you NEED a trellis! Form it into a tunnel over your garden with a path underneath and you will have a refuge of whimsy you will make excuses to frequent.
With the rising global temperatures, gardeners are facing many challenges, but nothing will deter us. Remembering these essentials of proper feeding, watering, sunlight, and support will get you off to a good start and set a firm foundation for years of productive and inspiring growing.