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Winter Gardening – Preparing for Spring

 Winter Gardening – Preparing for Spring

            By February many people are longing for spring, the warm weather, heading back outdoors and for many, getting their hands dirty in the garden! People don't often think of the winter season as an active time in the garden, but with some careful planning and preparation it can be a very good time to get ahead of the game! 
            The most important thing to do for your garden during the winter is to plan for the spring. You need to take a look at what you would like to do in the upcoming year, and make a plan how you will get it done. If you are planning a vegetable garden, a great place to start is by looking through all those nursery magazines! Start by taking a pad of paper and making a list of all the vegetables you would like to plant. You will want to sort them out by planting times and methods, as well as by vegetable family. After you have compiled your list, take another piece of paper and draw up your garden design. Grid ruled paper works excellent for this. There are also several gardening computer programs that will help you design a layout.
            Once you have your layout planned, you will need to decide which varieties of vegetables to plant. There are many different varieties of each vegetable, each vary in many ways. You will need to know which zone your garden is in, and decide which variety is best for you. Many nursery magazines will list the best qualities of each variety which will help you decide which is best for you. Once you have chosen all your varieties, you can purchase them.
            As planting season comes closer, you will need to look at all the different planting methods. Many seeds can be started indoors in a seed starting tray. These trays are sold at many garden centers and are an inexpensive and fun way to start your summer gardening. Some seeds can be directly sown into your garden soil at the proper planting time, and many vegetables can be bought as plants and planted directly into your garden. When you have received your nursery order, you may want to sort your seeds according to planting times. Some seeds can be started in early spring, while other seeds need to be sown once summer has started and the chance of frost has passed.
            As the weather warms up, and you are able to go outside, you can start to prepare your garden soil. This includes tilling, and amending the soil. Spring is a great time to get a hold of weeds and also to fertilize the soil before you have planted any vegetables. There are many great organic choices for fertilizer out there.
            Once planting time is upon you, you will be all ready to get out and get in the garden. Just grab your plans, seeds and tools and you'll be ready to go!
            If this is your first year gardening, there are several essential tools you will need to have on hand before you get started. The upfront cost of purchasing basic gardening supplies is significant, so be sure to check garage sales and thrift stores for some of these items.
            1. Shovel.  If you are planting any vegetables that need to be set in hills, (cucumbers, zucchini, etc.) you will need a sturdy, metal shovel. Shovels are also useful for digging up large sections of weeds or wild grass when you are clearing your garden.
            2. Rake.  A heavy metal rake will come in handy, especially in the spring and fall when you are cleaning your garden up from the winter, or preparing it for the winter. It is also nice for raking out dead weeds and for determining straight rows for planting.
            3. Wheelbarrow.   Whether you are loading up brush and weeds, moving dirt, or transporting mulch and compost, a wheelbarrow will save your back and your time.
            4. Hand Shovel.  A small, metal shovel will help you dig up stiff dirt for planting bulbs, onion sets, potatoes and more.
            5. Gloves. Thick and comfortable gardening gloves will save wear and tear on your hands. Good gloves will prevent calluses, splinters, and the dirt that would otherwise accumulate under your fingernails (which is next to impossible to remove).
            6. Hat/Sunscreen.  Since you will be spending many hours outside this summer, be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat to prevent damage to your skin.
            7. Watering Can/Sprinkler and Hose.  If you have a small garden, a watering can will enable you to water your plants evenly and gently. If your garden is large, a sprinkler will save you time hauling water.
            8. Utility Scissors.  Heavy duty scissors will help you cut lawn fabric, fencing, seed packages, fertilizer bags and more. Keep your scissors on hand, they will get ample use.
            9. Hoe.  Weeding is the most-despised aspect of plant care for most gardeners. A hoe with a thick, metal or steel blade will make the job more bearable.
            10. Plant Supports.  Cages for tomatoes, stakes for beans and cucumbers, chicken wire for peas...the list goes on. Be sure to check your seed packages to see what your plants need for support as they grow.
            Keep in mind that by purchasing gardening tools, you are making an investment. High quality tools will last for decades with proper care. Buying these items early will make gardening a more enjoyable experience for you.

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