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Spring Garden Tips for a Happy Garden

By: Mike Darcy

April is here, and it is a welcome relief to have winter gone, especially with the ongoing constraints of Covid-19. I am really looking forward to the new spring season and plan to garden nonstop this year! So, it was a delight to recently visit a garden center and see it well stocked and ready for spring. It put me in the mood to get the garden cleaned and planted.

There are lots of garden tasks to do during April, and I think that many gardeners will find it very enjoyable just getting outside after being confined during the winter months. Even spreading mulch will be a task to look forward to!

Spring Soil Preparation

One of the first tasks is to prepare the soil so that it is ready for spring planting. In my own garden, I always add some new OMRI Listed Black Gold Garden Compost Blend to my planting beds because I think it is good to replenish the existing soil. Black Gold Garden Soil is a nutrient-charged amendment for really boosting garden areas. Just work it into the top few inches of soil. Gardeners with raised beds should replenish their gardens with the new Black Gold® Natural & Organic Raised Bed & Potting Mix. Nothing performs better, and it is also approved for organic gardening. (Click here for our full Garden Amendment Guide.)

It is a good idea to have a soil test every few years to determine the state, quality, and pH of your soil. Especially so, if your plants performed poorly last year. If the soil is deficient in a particular nutrient, a soil test can give you the information needed to correct the problem. (Click here for some easy soil pH testing tips, and click here for additional soil testing resources and tips.)

Spring Vegetable Planting

My friend Janet Livesay, in Lake Oswego, Oregon, had a planter that fit over the railing of her deck. She uses Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil and plants lettuce from seed in spring and fall.

Once the garden bed has been prepared, it is time to plant. Planting dates will vary depending on your location (click here to learn your last frost date), but in much of western Oregon and Washington, some vegetable starts can be set out now. Look for starts of cauliflower, broccoli, peas, lettuce, chard, to name a few. Some vegetable seeds such as peas, beets, carrots, and chard can be directly sown. Note: there was a huge surge of homeowners planting vegetable gardens last year, and many vegetable seeds and plants sold out early. This increase in vegetable gardening seems to be continuing this year and if there are some specific seeds you are looking for; I would suggest buying them now. (Click here for some good spring vegetable ideas for small-space gardening.)

Gardeners with less space are also planting spring vegetable containers. If you do it right, you can grow lots of spring and summer vegetables in just a few small pots. Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil is a great choice of potting mix for this. From there, be sure to feed regularly with your favorite vegetable fertilizer. (Click here for some great spring root vegetables for container growing, and click here for more container vegetable gardening tips.)

Plant Summer Berries

Bushel and Berry® Raspberry Shortcake® is one of my favorite berries for containers. (Image thanks to Bushel and Berry®)

This is also an excellent time to plant berries and garden centers will probably have their best selection now. During my recent garden center visit, I saw raspberries, boysenberries, Marionberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries. The cane berries, (raspberries, boysenberries, Marionberries, and blackberries), need some kind of support to grow on and are generally not recommended for a small garden area. Gardeners looking for something more compact can check out the mini berries produced by Bushel and Berry®. My favorite is their beautiful and productive Raspberry Shortcake®. Strawberries grow low to the ground and can be worked into most small spaces. Blueberries are shrubs and can be worked into ornamental plantings and do not need support. Rhubarb can also be planted now and while it needs space to spread out with its large leaves, it can easily be worked into an ornamental bed. (Click here to learn more about growing strawberries, and click here to learn more about growing blueberries, and click here to learn how to grow berries in pots.)

Spring Lawn Care

Spring fertilization really gives lawns a needed boost.

Lawns are probably not looking so good after our winter, and this is the time to fertilize them. Usually, lawns need extra nitrogen, which is the first number of the macronutrient analysis on a bag of fertilizer (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium, or NPK). A general rule is to apply 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft of lawn. So, for example, if you have a fertilizer that is 20 percent nitrogen, it will take 5 lbs. of fertilizer to reach the one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft recommendation. If the lawn has moss in it, this would also be the time to apply a moss-control product. If the lawn needs some rejuvenation with fresh seed, get rid of the moss and then apply the new seed and cover it lightly with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend.

While it is a little early for most of the warm-season plants, this is a good time to develop a plan on where they will be planted. I always like to try some plants that are new to me or perhaps some that I’ve not grown for a few years. Lots to do in April, don’t make it a chore, make it a joy.

Click here to view Mike’s 2020 Spring Garden Tasks

About Mike Darcy


Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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