Spring is the beginning of the year, and the planting season. While the actual planting doesn't take place until late March, planting activities should begin several weeks ahead of planting dates. Activities such as planning, tool and bed preparation, fertilizing and composting must be finished before planting.
Set up the garden calendar. Plan the vegetables or flowers you are going to plant, when and where you are planting. Start this in early spring so you know what order remaining tasks fall in. Think about where the gardens will go and which preparations must be started to get the areas ready. Order or purchase the seeds and bulbs for planting in early spring for the growing season.
Check all the tools you use for planting and gardening in early spring. Look for rust especially where metal meets posts, handles or hinges. Sharpen the blades of saws, pruners and other cutting tools. Start up your rototiller and power tools; check for smooth operation, loose moving parts and sparks or smoke. Replace or repair any power tools.
Run the rototiller through the garden beds. Get the soil broken up to a depth of 6 to 12 inches so it is aerated. Use a turning fork for small areas or areas of clay soil or compacted soil. Pull up any weeds or other vegetation unwanted in the garden; single plants can be taken hold of by the stem base and pulled straight up. For a bed of weeds, set a flat-edge shovel parallel to the ground and remove the top inch of soil; this will also pull up the weeds.
Take a pH test of the soil; even if you've used the same spot in previous years, environmental changes can occur that alter the use or amount of fertilizer for the area. Add fertilizer after preparing the bed for planting. Get the fertilizer in early so it can settle into the soil. This allows the nutrients to be well-mixed especially with liquid fertilizers. Sprinkle either soybean meal, blood meal or a synthetic fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, over the garden. Use a ration of 1 pt. per 100 square feet of tilled soil.
Wait for the last frost before applying compost or mulch. Look for maple and oak trees to show signs of life via budding leaves to be sure frost has passed. Lay up to 2 inches of compost, pine straw, mulch or peat on top of the garden area; work it into the soil with the turning fork. This is also the time to set the compost and mulch around bushes, young trees, perennials and transplants.
Late spring is when to start planting. Annual flowers, direct-sown seeds, window boxes and planters are started now. Start fruit bushes in late spring as well as shrubs to let them establish root systems before the first frost in October. Plant the cool-season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, lettuce, radish, kale, potato and chard. Plant herbs such as basil, dill, oregano, thyme and rosemary.