The ski resorts are closed, the mountain bike trails muddy, and still too much snow to bag a 14er. So now is the time to prepare the garden for planting! Preparing the garden can be broken down into a few simple steps:
- Preparing the garden bed
- Deciding what to plant
- Laying out the bed
Preparing Garden Bed
Prepare the garden bed by removing weeds and adding any needed amendments or fertilizer. Getting a soil test is a great way to start off the growing season. Many gardeners tend to over apply soil amendments so it is best to test the soil and then apply fertilizer based on the recommendations from the test. Over application of amendments and fertilizers, both organic and synthetic, can lead to salt buildup in the soil and nutrient contamination of ground and surface water. Soil tests are available through Colorado State University’s Soil, Water, and Plant Testing Laboratory.
Try to keep the disturbance of the soil to a minimum when preparing the bed. A broadfork is a great tool for lightly mixing in amendments without causing too much damage to the soil. Minimizing cultivation of the soil allows the soil micro and macro organisms, such as fungi, to thrive and preserves pore spaces in the soil. Soil organisms and pore spaces are important for nutrient cycling and water and air infiltration; keys to healthy soil and healthy plants.
Along with preparing the garden bed, you need to decide what to plant. It can be helpful to set priorities when deciding what to plant.
Ask yourself questions like,
- Do I want to plant vegetables that are easy to grow?
- Do I want to focus on my favorite vegetables?
- Is this vegetable inexpensive to buy at the grocery store?
For example, potatoes and onions are typically easy to grow in Colorado but they are also inexpensive so if you are growing veggies to save on the grocery bill, these might be some to skip. When picking vegetable varieties, choose the variety with the fewest days to harvest listed on the seed package. Other characteristics to look for include ‘cold tolerant,’ ‘reliable in cool weather,’ ‘bred for earliness,’ ‘early,’ and ‘first to market’.
Sketching Garden Bed
The last thing to do before planting is to sketch out the planting plan for the garden bed. Making a sketch of the garden bed will help you buy the correct amount of seeds or plant starts for your space. The required space for the plant is listed on the seed packet or plant label. If you need some inspiration, there are several pre-designed vegetable garden layouts available on Colorado State University Extension’s Grow & Give website. The Grow & Give website also contains all the information you need to know about growing vegetables in Colorado and is a great resource to keep bookmarked for the growing season. While on this website, check out the opportunity to grow an extra row and give back to your community.
Wishing everyone a great mud aka planting season!