Just because Ohioans have to deal with cold weather from Lake Erie until late spring doesn't mean that the garden sits empty until mid-May. Ohio gardeners have plenty of chores to do to start a garden once spring arrives. Warm weather comes quickly, and being prepared means fresh veggies on the plate that much quicker.
Cut straight down into the soil with a hand trowel and get a sample of soil. Take the sample away from decomposing leaves or plant matter for more accurate test results. Take the sample in a clean container to a local extension office or full-service garden center to determine what the soil needs for the garden.
Amend the soil as indicated by the pH test, adding whatever nutrients suggested for a balanced soil. Such amendments could include sand, peat moss or lime, to name a few. Ohio has plenty of clay-heavy soil areas, so, for best results, be sure not to skip this step.
Spread compost or manure across the garden plot and till in until the soil is a fine powder. Grinding leaves in when tilling works well, too. Dry leaves add carbon and help the soil stay aerated.
Plant cold weather plants like asparagus, onions, rhubarb and strawberries in late March to early April as instructed on seed packaging. Root veggies like potatoes also can be planted. Cover sprouts with blankets if a late-season frost is forecast.
Plant seedlings only after the threat of frost is gone; usually mid-to-late May depending on how close to Lake Erie you live. Keep tomatoes 2 to 4 feet apart, depending on the tomato variety. Mound dirt around the base of the plant and place a tomato cage or stake, if desired. Water and mulch with straw. Plant pole beans, cucumbers and squash along the base of a trellis to maximize garden space.
Water and weed as needed. Seeds need to be kept moist until sprouted. Water tomatoes only every few days.