On Saturday, March 20 at 5:37 am EDT, we officially welcome the March or vernal equinox, which marks the beginning of spring in the northern half of the globe. (And the beginning of getting busy in our gardens!)
We all know it means that we’ll be getting sunnier and warmer, but did you know why?
Astronomers tell us that this is the time when the Sun crosses the equator, and our part of the Earth starts tilting more toward that energetic star at the center of our solar system. That means, yes, warmer temperatures and more daylight in our days. (By the way, in the Southern Hemisphere, the exact opposite is happening; they’re starting to tilt away from the Sun and will be welcoming the beginning of autumn.)
What can you do now to be sure your garden is ready for warmer temps and spring planting?
Whether you call this a checklist, a to-do list or some special reminders, here’s a nice collection of things you can do now.
Be sure your garden tools are cleaned and sharpened.
After you brush off any dirt, soak them in a solution of 10% bleach to 90% water for about a half hour to kill off any soil bacteria and fungu. And to keep your tools working like they should (and keep the strain off your hands), use a honing stone on their edges to smooth out burrs and rough edges, as well as sharpen them up, if they’re for cutting.
Test your lawn’s soil to see if it needs any nutrients.
Only add fertilizer and other amendments to your lawn if they’re needed. (And how would you know if you don’t test it?) In our area, you can get this test done through the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory.
All Fairfax County public libraries have a supply of Virginia Tech soil testing kits. The kits have instructions on how to collect the sample and where to mail it for analysis. The fee for a routine analysis is $10.00. A routine soil test package includes analyses for soil pH, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper, iron and boron, along with fertilizer and lime recommendations for specified plants. Soluble salts and organic matter tests are also available for an additional fee.
Loosen your garden soil and amend with compost.
Loosening up compacted soil is crucial so young roots can more easily grow. It’s also a great time to work in some compost to improve your soil’s potential. And if you find worms, that’s great! Worms help keep soil loose and their castings add nutrients. Wigglers are a gardener’s friend.
Fresh mulch for water retention and weed control.
After you’re satisfied that your soil’s properly prepared, think about adding a thick layer of mulch on top of it in order to keep weeds from taking hold. It’s also a good idea to replace any old mulch with a fresh batch.
Come visit us at Reston Farm Garden Market for the things you need, including soil amendments, mulch and compost.
This is just the start of the many things you can do to put out the welcome mat for spring. It’s a warm friendship that we’re happy to renew every year!