Waking up the Garden for Spring in Ohio

Waking up the Garden for Spring in Ohio

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Photo courtesy of Lake Metroparks
By Valerie F. Reinhardt, Horticulture Education Specialist, Lake Metroparks
The holiday decorations have been stowed away, the snow lays on the ground and, if you’re like me, your mailbox is filling up with seed catalogs full of wonderful pictures of mouthwatering vegetables and glorious flowers. In the heart of winter my mind drifts to the thought of gardening; even though that seems like such a long way off here in Northeast Ohio. In actuality it’s really not that far away and there are several things you can do to get your gardens ready for planting time.

Late winter is a great time to prune trees, especially fruit trees. Look for snow-free days while the ground is still frozen to prune fruit trees and flowering shrubs that bloom on new wood. It’s also a good time to prune grapes and cut back ornamental grasses. When the snow is off the ground, it’s a good time to clean up leftover leaves from the fall and other debris left behind by winter. As the ground starts to thaw, you might also consider doing some turf repair. Early spring is the time to fertilize grass as it is breaking dormancy. It’s also a good time to apply pre-emergent to the turf to prevent annual weeds like crabgrass.

When people think about vegetable gardens, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers come to mind. Unfortunately, those are all warm season plants that are frost sensitive and we have to wait until mid-May to plant them. Take heart though, this does not mean we have to wait to garden. There are a wide variety of vegetables you can plant earlier. When the ground can be worked in late March and early April, you can start preparing the garden by planting crops like carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, beets, leafy greens (kale and Swiss chard) and all the vegetables in the cabbage family. Make sure your garden bed has good drainage. Spring rains can lead to waterlogged gardens and plants like potatoes and peas will rot in cold wet soils. Raised beds are ideal in this case and can also give you a jump on other crops that need warm garden soil to thrive provided they have frost protection.

Remember those seed catalogs? Late winter is the time to order your seeds so you have them ready. Plants such as carrots, beets and turnips are best direct seeded; tomatoes, peppers and many others do better started ahead of time and transplanted. Your seed packets should be your best guideline on when and how to plant or start seeds.

If vegetables aren’t for you, there are a number of flowering plants you can plant for early color like pansies and snapdragons. Mid-April is a good time to plant tubers of cannas, gladiolas, dahlias and caladiums to get a jump on summer color. This is also the time to consider any new plantings of trees, shrubs and perennials. Spring rains can help establish new plantings before the summer heat, which can tax new growth.

The weather right now may be frightening. But remember: spring is so delighting…let us grow, let us grow, let us grow!

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