Spring is still eight weeks away. For eager gardeners counting the days until they are in the back yard breaking ground, it’s easy to feel a bit pot-bound indoors. Of course nothing compares to the feeling of soil between your fingers, but until then, why not satisfy your craving to garden by getting a jump-start on the season ahead? It’s not too soon to get started.
Ten Things You Can Do Right Now to Scratch your Gardening Itch
- Plot Your Plot: Are you getting the most out of your garden’s square footage?Don’t wait until you are rushing to put your delicate seedlings in the ground to plan the layout of your garden. Take time now to determine the arrangement of your plot and ensure you are maximizing the available space and sun exposure. First, make a list of the flowers, herbs, and vegetables you plan to grow this year. Consider the space requirements for each plant. Next, using graph paper and a ruler, sketch out the dimensions of your garden and mark a place for each plant on your list. Need some help getting started? Gardener’s Supply and Better Homes and Gardens offer online tools to help.
- Seek Out Experts: The experts at your local nursery or garden center posses a wealth of information about the plants best suited for your local environment. In the thick of the growing season, it can be difficult to get their time and attention. But during the winter slow-down, they’re usually eager to consult with customers. Now is a great time to pay your local garden center and strike up a conversation with an expert.
- Cultivate Compost: When the weather outside is frightful, the idea of trudging across the yard to dump your vegetable scraps in the compost pile can be completely unappealing. But that doesn’t mean your composting efforts need to come to a halt when it is cold out. Many garden centers sell indoor composting units. You can also simply keep a separate bin for compostable scraps in your garage or under your sink and add the contents to your regular pile later. You’ll be keeping waste out of landfills and accumulating nutrients for you soil in the process.
- Grow a Garden Network: Gardening can often be a solitary, almost meditative activity. But there is plenty to be gained by getting to know other gardeners in your area. Now is a great time to reach out and meet people. From sharing knowledge to swapping cultivars, building relationships with other gardeners can be very rewarding. Check your community paper or ask the staff at your local nursery for information about garden clubs in your area. Twitter and Facebook are greats way to find kindred gardening spirits.
- Get Organized: Do you have a shed full of rusty tools, broken pots, and threadbare gardening gloves? Throw damaged items away. Use this time to tidy up your workspace and take inventory of the supplies you’ll need to get to work when the weather warms.
- Visit your local Botanical Garden: Many metropolitan areas boast balmy indoor gardens which are open to the public. From lush orchid displays to arid cacti gardens, botanical gardens appeal to a variety of horticultural tastes. A trip to the botanic garden is great way to add inspiration and color to a dreary winter day. For information about the botanic garden nearest visit your state’s horticulture agency web page or check my list of popular metropolitan gardens.
- Expand Your Repertoire: Are you planting the same things, year after year? Every gardener needs tried-and-true plants, but don’t limit yourself. While you have some extra time, why not research a few new varieties to try this year?
- Start Seeds Indoors: If you are willing to put in the time and effort, starting your own seeds can be a great way to save money and try new varieties. And there’s something so satisfying about harvesting from a plant you've nurtured since it was a mere seed. Now’s the time to order the seeds you’ll be starting and to pick a staging area. Any sunny windowsill will do, but for those in need of more room, most garden retailers sell indoor growing carts. DIY-types will love this thrifty homemade growing cart alternative.
- Make a Crop Calendar: Develop a schedule for seeding and harvesting. Mark out the days you’ll put in staggered seeds, such as lettuce. Using the information on your seed packets, estimate the harvest date for each variety. A calendar will help you stay on-task and anticipate the days you’ll need to block out extra time in the garden.
- Read! Amazon lists more than 13,000 Gardening & Horticulture titles. Curling up on the couch with a good book on a chilly afternoon can be heavenly, especially when it helps you improve your skills and grow as a horticulturalist. Garden blogs are another great resource. There’s no end to what you can learn.
Eight weeks can feel like an eternity, but spring will be here before you know it. In the meantime, the suggestions above will help you prepare for the busy spring season. And while you’re at it, try to relax. Spend a lazy afternoon flipping through seed catalogs. In no time at all, you’ll be spending long days outside with your hands in the dirt. Get a manicure now, before it’s a lost cause. Rest up while you can, so you’re ready to make this spring your best gardening season yet.
by Alison Kosakowski contributing lifestyle editor- you can also find Alison blogging about her life as a Dairy Queen on a farm in Vermont at Diary of A Dairy Queen