By Judy Arnold, Master Gardener

Spring has sprung and now it’s time to get out in the garden! Birds are chirping and the soil is beckoning. Have you thought about your garden? Here are my Vital 5 for gardens to help you get started:

  1. Soil: Now is the time for the spring cleaning of the garden. Rake up the leaves, pull up the dead plants, rake the soil, and get things ready for growing. Turning up the soil: Whether you are tilling in compost for amending or just digging up last year’s weeds, it’s important to aerate the soil by turning it over. Depending on your soil type you’ll likely need to add an amendment to the soil to make it good for plants. I suggest adding 2-4 inches of composted material each year by mixing it deeply into the soil of annual beds and raking it gently into established perennial beds.
  2. Sunlight: If you are starting a new garden consider what you plan to grow. Vegetable gardens need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight to produce wonderful home-grown vegetables. Flower beds can be a little more versatile with the varieties of plants that adapt to shade or full-sun. If you have an established bed, evaluate what is working and what is not and consider changes you’d like to make this year.
  3. Water: Watching the weather is great for knowing what to wear each day, but it also helps you know how and when to water your garden. If irrigation is needed for your garden to survive, consider soaker hoses or other drip-irrigation options to help provide water just the right amount of water, just where you want it. If you can rely on Mother Nature to provide water count yourself lucky!
  4. Selection: Knowing your zone is critical to plant life! Plant seeds and vegetation that do well in your zone. When at a garden center and making plant selections, consider the sunlight needed to grow that plant and plan accordingly. I highly recommend trying something new each year, just to see if YOU can get it to grow. But if you don’t like taking risks and want to know what grows best in your area, ask a neighbor or someone who has a garden you enjoy and ask for their recommendation. Most garden centers have knowledgeable staff that can answer your questions and make recommendations on what to plant.
  5. Care: Once you’ve planned, prepared, and planted your garden it will require care to keep it productive and beautiful. Weekly weeding (or daily if you have the time) will help you stay on top of those pests and help you discover other pests that may be lurking in your garden. Use the pest control of your choice (either chemical based or organic) to help keep plants clean and healthy throughout the growing season.


Above all, enjoy YOUR garden! Take the time to make your garden inviting to you and guests and you’ll be rewarded with more than just carrots and tomatoes! I encourage you to experiment with something new, keep a journal to help you determine what you want for your future gardens, and consider adding a place (or two!) for sitting, reading, or even enjoying a meal in your garden.

Happy Gardening![:]