Spring Time to Prep the Garden!

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Gina Snyder

The crocuses and birds have been greeting me in the mornings this month. That must mean spring is here, although the wind can still seem like the beginning of March! But the warmth of the sun and the flowers springing up remind us all that it’s time to spruce up for spring.

Even though it’s not quite warm enough to plant outside yet, there are some timely tasks you can do now to get your yard ready and help satisfy your gardening urges. The first thing to do is give your garden organics by visiting your local compost center.

Many towns have a compost center, and in my town, the compost center is open again as of the first weekend in April. There you can fill some buckets with finished compost to bring back home and enrich your gardens.
If you don’t compost in your own yard, you can also take advantage of the compost center by bringing any leftover leaves from last year and any windfalls from the winter – broken branches, downed sticks – and drop these off to be composted and mulched.

For vegetable gardens, add the new compost to the top of the existing soil without tilling it in. Annual tilling is not recommended as it disturbs the natural and beneficial work of organisms in your soil. When it is warm enough, plant your seeds and seedlings in the new topsoil and as they grow, their roots will extend into the naturally aerated existing soil.

Gina collects wood chip mulch at her local compost center

Chipped wood is also available at my compost center for mulching. When I mulch, a couple of layers of newspapers between my soil and mulch provide an added barrier to weeds while still allowing the rain to penetrate to the soil.

I have found wood chips decompose more slowly than some other mulches, and they can be quite effective in helping establish trees and native plants, especially in areas that are hot and sunny.

Good, rich organic compost and mulch make for a great combination to keep your yard and garden healthy, and help your soil retain moisture when conditions get hot and dry. Now is the time to get the garden ready and give it extra hardiness as we head into summer.

About the author: Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental and Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and has been a volunteer river monitor on the Ipswich River, where she also picks up trash every time she monitors the water quality.