Living in Colorado, we plant our gardens a little later than other areas of the country. This is mostly due to our high elevation, which increases our chance of snow and freezing nighttime temperatures well into April and early May. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to do to prepare our gardens on those warm April days ahead. The month of April is a great time to get started. As a matter of fact, April 14 is National Gardening Day and the whole month of April is designated as National Gardening Month. With that in mind, here are some great tips on preparing your garden for planting.
The first thing to do to get your garden ready is to remove debris that may have ended up in your garden over the winter. This might include fallen branches, leaves, unwanted rocks, old labels and litter. Then, it’s time to pull those weeds. Whether they are leftover weeds from fall, or newly sprouted, they must go. It’s good to remove them before they get established and go to seed.
Next, inspect your shrubs and trees for damage they might have incurred during the winter. Prune any broken, dead or storm-damaged branches. Also snip the brown tips off any evergreens that have suffered dieback from the winter’s cold.
Now it’s time to check your perennials. Some people deadhead and cut back their perennials and grasses in the fall, but I’m one of those who waits to do it in the spring. I like having them for winter interest and they provide food and shelter for wildlife. So, if you are like me, it’s time to cut back and clear the way for this year’s new growth. While you’re concentrating on your perennials, you may notice that some need to be divided. Before new growth begins is the perfect time to dig up and divide. Replant and water the divided clumps ASAP. If you have any leftovers, give them to your friends.
Finally, turn to your annual beds. You can improve the soil by adding organic material such as good quality compost. The result is rich soil that holds moisture but drains well. Also, good garden soil is loose and filled with air that plant roots need, and it contains minerals essential for plant growth. It is alive with living organisms such as earthworms and good bacteria. If you haven’t already done so, rake any debris from the beds to clear the area for preparation. On a day when the soil is moist but not wet, spread a minimum of three inches of compost onto your soil. Then turn or till the soil as deeply as possible, at least eight to 10 inches. Deep tilling aerates and loosens soil which lets roots grow deeper. Now, rake the beds level and when it’s finally warm enough in mid-to-late May, your beds are ready to plant with beautiful annuals. Happy gardening!
Mike Holloway is a horticulture coordinator with the Denver Botanic Gardens
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