Monday, February 10, 2014

Enough Already! Preparing Your Landscape for Spring

I'm not going to complain about the weather. Too much.

Enough snow. Enough cold! Enough with the hats and gloves and boots! I've had it, and am officially over this winter.

I'm trying to stay positive and think Spring. Things are hopping with The GardenWorks Project, and that has me thinking, and talking, a lot about summer gardening. Some folks in my new neighborhood are already yearning for new landscapes, and that's been keeping me busy with garden design. But the day to day dealings with this weather are wearing on me, and you too, I'm sure.

So there. I'll stop complaining and focus this post on how to start thinking about, and planning your garden so you can be ready when all this snow finally melts and you can get your hands in the dirt.

Spring Cleanup
Walk your garden and pick up branches, and clip off remnants of last year's perennial growth, but don't go crazy with the cleanup. Every last leaf does not need to be plucked and bagged. Last year's leaves and perennials can be left in the garden and used for mulch. Their breakdown provides organic matter that improves the health of the soil and your plants. Just clip off old perennial growth at the base of the plant, break it into smaller pieces, and use it as mulch in perennial beds. Depending on what plants you've got, you can even set your lawnmower to it's highest setting and mow right over the plants, creating an instantly mulched bed that new growth will have no problem pushing through. This will damage your plants, though, if you have lots with crowns that protrude from the ground, like heuchera (coral bells) and my favorite ornamental grass, sesleria autumnalis (autumn moor grass).

Planning the Veggie Garden
Now is the time to think about what foods you might want to grow in the vegetable garden. Think about trying a new veggie that you've never grown before, and maybe have never eaten before (kohlrabi, anyone?). It's also a good time to consider adding some perennial vegetables and fruits to your garden, like asparagus, strawberries, and rhubarb. Plant these once, and they'll get bigger and more prolific each year.

After you've done your planning, it's time to order seeds and plants. There is nothing better in the dead of winter than holding those seed packets in your hands - with all their promise of warm days and fresh foods. If you live in the west suburbs of Chicago, consider ordering your vegetable seedlings from Sweet Home Organics. They are organically grown, right in Villa Park, and can be ordered and picked up at a number of locations and dates. Select "The GardenWorks Project" from the drop down box at checkout, and a portion of your purchase will go toward proving home vegetable gardens to local families who are in need of food pantry assistance. Online orders are due April 29.

Add Garden Seating
Take a look around your yard and think about adding a place to sit and enjoy what you've created. Maybe a bench by the front door, or a cafe table in the vegetable garden. Create a path that leads to the are of your property furthest from your house, and place some chairs there. Nature has such a calming effect, and we should all have a special place to just sit. To just be, and enjoy our surroundings. If you need help planning a private garden space, a vegetable garden, or any part of a sustainable landscape, and you live in the St. Charles area, feel free to take a look at my website.

Okay. We can do this. We can tough out these last few weeks of winter, for there are warm, green, sunshiny days ahead. I hope.

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