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These spring gardening tips will help you get a bigger harvest from your garden this year and will help save you some frustration in the future. I truly believe gardening and raising our own food should be as easy as possible.
At the time of publishing, it’s mid-March, which means it’s the time of year when we really need to start getting things in gear for the upcoming growing season and preparing garden for spring planting. These tips I’m about to share with you are best done in the spring before most of your plants are really open and blossoming. So if most of your perennial plants like your fruit trees, herbs, etc. aren’t really in full-on growing mode yet but they’re just starting, then these tips are going to be really helpful for you!
Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #172 Spring Gardening Tips to Increase Harvest Yield , of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen and life you want for your family and homestead.
But before doing anything in the garden, the first thing you should really do is an evaluation.
I talk about this a lot, but it’s really important, especially if you’re putting in some new plants or gardening beds. Or, on the flip side, maybe you’ve been growing things for a few years in the same spot and it’s time to move things around.
In order to maximize your harvest, you want to optimize your garden, and that includes planting things in just the right spot where they will really thrive.
Ideally you should do an evaluation before you put things in, so that you don’t have to move them, but sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know until you’re several growing seasons in. So, if you ever wondered what to do in the garden in spring, here’s your answers my friend.
The first thing that I like to do is just walk around and survey our property. I make a note of where I’ve got different things and I evaluate how well each thing is growing in the area that it’s in.
I’ve made some mistakes in the past with our fruit trees and we had to move them (which isn’t ideal), so now I’m a lot more cognizant of when and where I plant our perennials.
We just put in elderberries last year. I’m going to be putting in some new raspberries this year, and our fruit trees, thankfully, we don’t have to move anymore. They’re in their permanent spot at last and doing well, although moving them did set us back an entire growing season. But if you can do a thorough evaluation of your property before you plant perennials (especially fruit trees and bushes), you’ll be better off in the long run.
For more specific information on putting in fruit trees and growing an orchard on your homestead, and/or moving things around, check out Episode #169 – Five Tips to Starting An Orchard and Growing Fruit On Your Homestead.
Fall and early spring are the best times to divide perennial plants like herbs, raspberry canes, strawberries, etc. Right now I’m looking at dividing out my chives, for example.
Rhubarb is another perennial plant that multiplies as it grows, so you’re going to need to divide out your crowns, because eventually they’ll just get to be too many for the area that you have them in, and then you’ll need to divide those out.
The best part about dividing is that you can either increase your own crop of that particular plant by taking what you’ve divided out and planting it in a new spot and getting an increased harvest that way, or you can give them away to other people.
You could barter with others and exchange plants from crops you’re growing for something different that they’re growing, raising, making or even for a service they provide, or you can just simply give them away.
With the ease of being online now, it’s really easy to set up swaps with other people in your community, especially if you have Facebook or Craigslist. Of course, take care and caution if you’re going to have anybody you don’t know come to your house. Always meet in a public place during daylight hours. But you can certainly find local people to swap and trade with simply by searching local gardening groups on Facebook.
Dividing perennials is an early spring gardening chore, before they’ve begun to leave dormancy.
It’s pretty easy to divide your perennials. Here’s what to do:
If you have any dormant bushes or trees, this is a good time to move them, before they start to leaf out and really get into that spring growing time. You want to do it when they’re still in their dormancy, and that’s before the buds open up and before green leaves start to appear. Evaluate where things are and if they’re thriving where they are then leave them there. But if you think they would grow better in a different spot, now is the time to do it.
This can also be a really good time of year to evaluate your yard and your property when it comes to planting. Walk around and make note of the different microclimates or micro-zones that exist around your property.
Ask yourself: Where do you get the most shade? Where do you get full sun? Where does it stay cool or damp or hot or dry most of the time?
You especially want to evaluate and note where your warm pockets are. The best way I’ve found to do this is after you have a snowfall, go out and look and see where that snow melts first. Wherever it melts first, that is a warm pocket or microclimate, so you know that you can put plants there and most of them will do well.
For one, they will likely overwinter better in warm pockets. For example, I have our rosemary plant tucked up against our back deck, and that’s always one of the very first places that the snow and/or the frost will melt, which means it stays warmer during the winter, which is really good for rosemary. We’re kind of borderline with our gardening zone for keeping rosemary alive as a perennial, and by putting it in a warm micro climate on my property, I’ve been able to keep that rosemary bush alive for years.
It’s also important to know where your different microclimates are when it comes to planting your annuals. For example, you should plan to put your heat-loving plants like basil, tomatoes and pepper plants in the warm pockets of your property that get full sun.
But on the flip side, some summer annuals might do better in a cooler microclimate. So if you’ve noticed any plants in the past that seemed to really struggle in the heat or a lot of the sun, then you’ll want to plan to put it in a cooler or shadier pocket.
If you’ve still got snow melting on your property, seeing where the snow melts first and last is a great indicator of where your warm and cool microclimates are, which will help you decide what to plant in those areas based on the needs of each individual plant.
This is also a good time to evaluate the way that the soil around your landscape drains. Take note of areas that are really soggy. Where does the water tend to settle and build up? Where is it pooling instead of draining?
Some plants need to stay wetter, and others don’t like their roots wet hardly at all. Early spring is the perfect time of year for you to not just guess, but to really see where you get the best (and worst) drainage because of all that runoff water you get from those heavy spring rains and/or snow that is then melting. And you’ve still got time to plan your crops and your garden beds accordingly.
Another thing you might want to evaluate is the proximity of your plants to your house, as well as what to plant them in. So for example, I keep most of my herbs in containers by my back deck because some of them like mint and sage will spread like crazy if I put them in the ground or in a larger garden bed. And I like to have them right next to my back deck because they’re herbs that I cook with frequently, so I can just run outside and grab them quickly.
Now is also the time to think about fertilizing.
Since container plants tend to stay in the same container with the same soil year after year, it’s important to add some nutrients into the soil in the spring to ensure your container plants stay healthy and productive.
You’ll want to wait until your container plants break their dormancy because that’s when they’re going to be hungry, and you want them to stay in their dormant phase until the weather is appropriate for them to come out of it. Once you start to see things turning green and buds opening up, that’s the time to get your containers fertilized.
To fertilize, you can put some aged and ready compost on top of the soil and work that into that top layer. I also like to use a liquid fish fertilizer, which I use that with the majority of my containers, and then I save our manure and our big compost pile for our berry plants and for out in the garden.
Also remember when you’re fertilizing, if you’re using manure on anything, if it’s an above ground crop you want to make sure that you have enough “buffer” days before you are going to be harvesting when you’re putting fresh manure on your soil. For example, I wouldn’t want to put down a whole bunch of fresh manure, and then in like 30 days, start harvesting and eating my plants because that manure won’t have broken down yet and there could be traces of it on the plants that I’m eating. Needless to say, it’s a good idea to have that buffer time in there for it to break down enough, and into the soil before you’re harvesting directly from it.
If you haven’t started your seeds yet, there’s still time. Your window is going to depend on the crops your planting, as well as your last average frost date.
You’ve got cool weather crops that can go out a few weeks before that last average frost date, and then you’ve got your warm weather crops that need to be a couple of weeks past any danger of frost, so that they can make it outside. So when exactly you start your seeds will depend on the crop and on your gardening zone and last frost date. But this is the time of year to get those seeds started so don’t wait!
For more information on starting seeds, you can check out Episode #130 – The Ultimate Seed Starting Guide: Planning, Starting and Mistakes Avoid.
I’ll also be posting some videos soon over on my YouTube channel all about seed starting and how we start our seeds, so if you’re not following me over on YouTube yet, head on over and click subscribe to be notified of new videos.
In the meantime, take some time to evaluate your garden, enjoy the warmer spring weather and start planning for an abundant harvest this year!
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.