Get ready for spring with these 5 gardening tips

One true joy of living in Georgia is the proximity to verdant forests and mountain regions that are alive with growing things year-round. What’s probably most intriguing to the Atlanta city gardener is the ability to plant and harvest something from your garden almost all year.

Right now, with the spring planting period of March to May upon us, Atlanta’s spring blooms are a thing of the not-so-distant future. You’ve been dreaming over seed catalogs and plotting out your rows through the winter months. With the right preparations now, the best of springtime’s blossoms and bounty will be here in abundance before you know it.

Here are 5 of the best spring gardening tips from Atlanta-area experts:

Clean up vegetable and garden beds

Caring for a vegetable garden is an enjoyable and satisfying way to bring food to your table. You most likely have a bit of debris from last year’s garden poking out around a mess of dead leaves and sticks. Similar clean-up is needed in perennial beds where dead blossoms may still droop and dried-up stems still linger.

Kara Ziegler, horticulturist and regional manager for Pike Nurseries, recommended beginning by raking back any mulch. Then, trim and tidy up anything that is dead, such as limbs and branches. Prepare your beds now so that when the warm weather hits, you’re ready to plant.

Prepare the soil

Further preparation is needed a bit deeper down in the soil.

“Now is the time to go ahead and get your fresh compost and your vegetable soil added to your veggie and garden beds in preparation for that frost-free date that usually happens at the beginning of April,” Zeigler told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

She also recommends mixing some good compost, or soil amendment, at a 50/50 ratio into your existing soil. Prepare your soil right, and you will literally be laying the groundwork for an excellent growing season.

Weed prevention

Any gardener knows that weeds are a killjoy. But Ziegler said there is a way to preempt the spread of pesky weeds and crabgrass before you plant.

First, put down crabgrass preventer now. Going forward, you can begin weed control in January and February so you don’t have to do as much work in the spring and summer. That work includes manually picking out weeds from your grass and garden beds.

Second, spread layer upon layer of mulch. Thick layers prevent weeds. After you clean up your gardens and beds, be sure to rake back any mulch that was there. Spread a few more mulch layers to save future you from hours of hands-and-knees weed-pulling. The University of Georgia Extension encourages mulching between rows to help control weeds.

Add some color

Winter is a challenging time for gardening, with cool temperatures and frost. But don’t forget about the color you can add to your garden. Now is a perfect time to plant cool-season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and collards. UGA Extension also recommends root vegetables such as carrots and turnips. Cool-season herbs — such as rosemary, parsley, cilantro and sage — are even easier to manage in a nearby outdoor container.

“All are evergreen and can take the cold and can add nice color to your pots,” Ziegler said.

Strawberries are an easy way to continue to add color. Wait until late February or the beginning of March to plant them. According to Ziegler, strawberries are a versatile plant with a quick turnaround. Plant in a container or small pot if you are short on space. They also fit nicely in a vegetable garden. While you wait to harvest, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous flowers.

Plant trees and shrubs

Now is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. In fact, it’s better to plant them when it’s cool. And although the ground doesn’t freeze in the south, there are benefits to planting them now.

“It gives them time to establish their root system while it’s not hot, long before the stress and heat of summer come, and then you can have an established plant that doesn’t need as much water,” Ziegler said.

While the weather is still cool, plant azaleas, roses and hydrangeas in larger spaces. They can begin blooming as early as April and May. Snapdragons and pansies would make a colorful refresh for any containers or pots along balconies and porches.

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