The Great April Clean Up: Spring on the farm
Spring in the Midwest is a funny thing. I can totally relate to the relentless memes about how Ohio can’t make up it’s mind about weather. Lucky for Ohio we enjoy some weather variation and as long as the wind and occasional spring winter, are followed by sunshine, we’ll keep smiling.
This year our farm (read “I”) did a lot of learning and reading and course taking on cool weather flowers. It’s made all of winter here buzz with the business of spring. We started hundreds of seeds at the end of January, not long after putting our garden to bed for the season. It made our long cold days seem quite busy. However, spring is starting its opening act and there’s LOTS to do outside. Any and all of the activities on this list apply to everyone, no matter how avid a gardener you are or what size the ground you work!
Enter APRIL TASKS!
Now is the time to direct sow cool season vegetable and flower seeds once you can work the soil easily: Cauliflower, cabbage, peas, bachelor buttons, petunias, and larkspur to name a
few. As for the cool weather seeds you gave a start inside, it’s time to harden them off! These babies will safely transplant out by the end of the month. Just shout if you need any encouragement on how to harden them off. With a few simple guidelines, hardening off cool weather plants is a snap.
Now is the time to divide perennials if it’s needed. You can definitely divide when they are dormant but early spring offers not only the same visual locator but nicer weather to boot!
If you mulched any plants or bushes for winter protection, remove enough of the mulch so that new growth can emerge unimpeded.
Spring clean the flower beds by weeding while your invaders are small and easy to root up. Remove the leaves left for protection so that new growth can reach the sun. If you are starting a new patch for planting or just reviving an old one, a soil test is a quick and simple task that will yield fantastic results for the health of your soil and the growth and production of your plants. We often do ours in the fall so we can amend the soil and let it rest through the winter, but spring is also a perfect time! All you need is a small shovel and a gallon sized zip lock bag labeled with your name and address. Go out to your space and dig 4 to 6 inches down, get a core sample of dirt from 10 random spots in your garden. Add it all to the same bag and drop it off wherever your county extension office suggests. We take ours to the local mill in Amanda and Barry has the results back in about a week. For us it’s a $15 fee that’s worth the while! When the test returns, amend the soil accordingly and till in.
Are you a composter? Now is a great time to turn your compost pile. Whether you own a fancy turning composter or a tri-frame pallet monstrosity like we do, composting is an easy and super beneficial hobby to take up! Adding home compost (no meat or eggs please) to your soil will help build up healthy matter and provide for necessary microorganisms.
If you feel comfortable, now is the time to prune shrubs that have finished blooming on old wood. If you’re unfamiliar with the terms old and new wood, a few short YouTube instructional videos should do the trick. If you’re not comfortable with it or if the shrub or bush is especially sentimental to you, I would suggest hiring the task out.
And last but not least, one of my very favorite things to do is plant out new perennials.
Although we start 99% of our plants from seed, it is good for my soul to purchase a few of my favorite healthy perennials already prepared to bloom. I just plant them and let them do their thing! One of our favorite small plant centers is Engles Landscaping in Ashville, Ohio. Their sweet little garden shed, with its fluffy cats and fairy garden essentials is hemmed in by greenhouses that are chock full of healthy perennials and annuals.
Each new month will bring a unique garden task list and although the Midwest can be unpredictable (It’d be fine if it weren’t for the wind, right?), take advantage of the beautiful days we have and get your hands dirty! Science says it’s good for your soul.