Top 10 Rules for Spring Gardening

Help ensure your garden's success by heeding these dos and don'ts.

Work the soil only when it's moderately dry. Tilling, walking on, or cultivating the soil when it's wet leads to creating something akin to adobe: the whole structure of the soil is destroyed.

Provide drainage. If your soil is too wet to work, use raised beds to enable earlier planting in the spring. The soil in raised beds dries out and warms up faster than the surrounding earth.

Check seed packages for the number of days to harvest. Plant cool-season plants such as peas, onions, Swiss chard, spinach and lettuce in early spring so they mature before hot weather arrives. Delay planting warm-weather crops until you're safely past the last spring frost and the soil has warmed sufficiently.

Delicate Pink Peonies

Know your zone. Whether you use USDA or Sunset zones, choose your plants not only for cold-hardiness but for heat-tolerance as well. Example: Peonies don't bloom where winters are mild.

Ease your transplants into the garden. If you've started seedlings indoors, expose them gradually to the conditions they'll have in the garden: start the pots off for only a few hours in a sunny place, then gradually increase the amount of sun exposure before installing the transplants in the garden.

Use Mother Nature to feed your plants. The best amendment for your soil is one you can make yourself: compost. If you don't already have a compost pile, start one now.

Water Tomatoes After Planting in Pizza Garden

Water deeply. Your veggie garden will need about an inch of water a week; if enough rain hasn't fallen, water till the top 6 inches of soil are wet. Simply wetting the soil's surface with daily watering doesn't reach most of the root zone and is harmful to plants. Saturate the soil around the base of tomato plants and avoid getting the foliage wet to reduce the chances of foliar diseases.

Rotate your veggie crops. Grow them in different spots every year. Tomatoes are especially vulnerable to diseases that may linger in the soil or in plant residue.

Synchronize pruning chores to bloom time. Prune summer-blooming shrubs, such as abelia and butterfly bush, in early spring. Buds form on the new wood that emerges the same year. Later, cutting spent flowers on your butterfly bush will produce new flowers.

Hydrangeas are the exception to the pruning rules for summer-flowering shrubs. Mophead hydrangeas — and others that flower in summer — need to be pruned in fall. Fall-blooming hydrangeas such as H. paniculata are pruned in late winter or early spring.

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