Spring is coming, which means it’s time to start thinking about your garden. Spring is coming, which means it’s time to start thinking about your garden.
The Front Range gets loads of sunlight year-round that helps nourish fruits and veggies during the growing season – especially from about mid-May to late September.
But unfortunately, that’s where the natural benefits of gardening in this region end.
Low humidity, poor soil, temperatures that quickly go from hot to cold, drying winds and a short growing season can make gardening along the Front Range a challenge.
Luckily, there are a few simple tactics that can go a long way in helping ensure your Colorado garden is fruitful this year.
Here are 6 simple steps to get your garden ready for spring so it can thrive all summer long.
Choose the Right Plants
If you want to be a successful gardener on the Front Range, choose plants that love living here.
There are many plants that love growing in the hot arid conditions of Colorado – and many that don’t.
Look for plants with smaller leaves, as these usually need less water and are less susceptible to hail damage.
Avoid late-blooming plants or plants that love heat. These plants need more growing days, and Colorado will often see late spring or even early summer frosts. Plus, a short growing season is not a good partner for heat-loving plants.
When it comes to vegetables, think cool season veggies, which love mountain conditions. Leafy greens, root vegetables, herbs, and plants like peas, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are all good candidates for Front Range planting.
Start Your Seeds Indoors
Given that the last average spring frost comes in mid to late May along the Front Range, your best bet for a healthy garden is to start most of your plants indoors. This is especially true if you want to grow a plant that isn’t necessarily the best candidate for the climate.
Read the seed packet for information on when to start each type of seed, as all they operate on their own unique growing schedule.
If you start your seeds too early, you might end up with unhealthy plants. But if you start them too late, they won’t have time to develop before you need to transplant them to your garden.
You’ll need to “sun” your indoor seedlings with energy-efficient bulbs that provide a high-light output. Be sure to read up on how much light the seeds need each day, and how far away to place the seeds from the light source.
Finally, find a warm place in your home where the seeds won’t be disturbed (and where the lights won’t bother you). A laundry room or mudroom could be the best fit.
Clean Up Your Garden and Gardening Tools
Your garden has probably collected debris like broken branches and leaves over the course of the fall and winter. Now is a great time to clean out the bed so it’s ready for spring planting.
Most stuff you can probably pick up by hand, but it won’t hurt to use a yard or garden rake to clear out any smaller bits of branch, leaves, or rocks.
If your garden has any features like trellises, poles or a raised bed structure, make sure they’re in good condition. Fix, reset, or replace any of these pieces as needed.
Your garden tools probably need a little love before planting season, too. You can clean the metal parts of your rakes, shovels, and spades easily with soap and water.
For wood handles, use mineral spirits, which will help prevent splintering.
Plan Your Garden Layout
A common mistake people make when planting their garden is overcrowding.
Plants need space and access to water and sunlight to grow healthily. It’s important that you plan the layout of where each plant will go in your garden before you start sticking seeds in the soil.
Read the seed packets to find out how much spacing each type of plant needs. Things like herbs and root veggies are best off on the edge of the garden.
Plant things like carrots, onions, beans, and leafy greens in well-spaced rows. Plants such as broccoli and zucchini can go in the middle of the garden – they don’t need to be planted in rows, this allows for optimal use of space.
If you haven’t established a garden plot yet, choose an optimal site location that pro-vides the following elements:
- an open, sunny area without other vegetation or weeds around
- an area with enough space to accommodate your growing needs
- an area where you can install a raised garden bed, as these flourish best in the Front Range because of less-than-ideal natural soil conditions.
A raised bed can also be filled with high-quality soil and lined to minimize water runoff.
Prep the Soil
A healthy garden needs healthy soil. Before you get planting, make sure your soil is primed and ready to grow.
Start by testing your soil content. This is something you can do with an inexpensive kit from your local garden shop.
The test will reveal soil texture, soluble salts, phosphorous, lime, potassium, and prob-ably most importantly, pH level.
An ideal pH level is in the 5.5-7 range. A pH above or below this can result in toxicity or nutrient deficiency.
To balance your soil, add organic matter as necessary. It benefits microbial activity, slows downs release of nutrients, and improves your soil structure.
Finally, consider using mulch to prevent soil erosion, minimize weed growth, and to help your garden retain water.
Maintain the Surrounding Area
Your garden will suffer if the surrounding area is full of weeds. These can spread quickly and take up the precious resources your plants need to grow.
Make sure tree coverage isn’t blocking sunlight from reaching your garden. Most plants need lots of light to grow, and shade cover can stunt plant growth. GSC provides maintenance services including weed cleanup and tree trimming to help.
Making sure the lawn surrounding your garden is healthy and happy will keep your garden healthy and happy too, so you can enjoy fresh fruits and veggies all summer long. And if you need a little extra help around the lawn (or simply want to give yourself more free time to relax this spring, don’t hesitate to call our lawn-care professionals to take care of the work.