Getting Ready for Spring - Prepping the Garden

This time of year might be the hardest for those of us in parts of the country where winter really kicks in. Though we can grow some greens and herbs during the cold months, most of our bounty in the south comes during the late spring and during the heat (and sun) of summer.

We can build cold-frames and work with greenhouses to produce more in the winter, but what most of us can grow without serious heating and potentially having to add grow lights is very limited.

That doesn't keep us at Linwell out of the garden though. There is plenty to do this time of year to get ready for the upcoming year. The growth harvest of the past year will have taken it's toll on the soil in the garden and beds, the plants pulling nutrients to produce our harvest. Many permanent aspects need work too - our fruit trees grew dramatically this year, they'll need pruning. We have bulbs to plant (saffron crocus, tumeric) that should set for a couple months before spring sets their growing cycle and pulls them out of the ground.

SO! It's the time of year for maintenance, planning, pruning and feeding the garden. Our list includes:

**Turning compost, adding all the great fall leaves we've collected to it. We have a couple bins and a couple piles we use, so about a month ago we quit feeding a couple of them and have left them to biodegrade and compost. They'll be ready late winter to add to the beds adding new food, nutrients, microbes and other big benefits to our soil. We even add a 6 - 10" layer of leaves to all the beds that don't have anything growing in them and turn the soil about once every two weeks to turn under those leaves and keep the beds aerated. We keep "feeding" the other compost piles an bins so they'll be ready to add to the beds late spring / early summer when the spring crop is done. Generally we have a constant rotation of compost being started, mid-process and finishing all the time.

**Pruning trees - at some point in late January through late February we'll prune our fruit trees (and roses) to prep them for the upcoming year. It keeps them healthier, pushes good new growth the upcoming year by allowing their stored energy to go to fewer branches and more of the buds and coming fruit. It also controls their grown patterns and height.

**Planting bulbs and other "permanent" plantings. Many bulbs do best after a few weeks to a couple of months chilling in the soil before warmer weather brings them out and they start their grow cycle.

This is also the time of year we evaluate how the garden did the year before, what did best where, what we liked and used the most of. It's the best time for us to rearrange if necessary, redraw where and what we plant, and overall plan for spring.

For the first month or so of cold weather we tend to lay low, enjoy some down time, enjoy the holidays and generally let the yard, landscaping and garden be. But as the new year approaches and we start to think about spring we get geared up mentally and physically again and find ourselves outside working and prepping more and more often.

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