A master gardener offers spring tips

Four-packs of lettuce greens for sale last year at Mother Earth Gardens in Minneapolis.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

As the weather finally starts to warm up, gardeners in Minnesota may be eager to get their hands in the dirt. Julie Weisenhorn, State Master Gardener Program director at the University of Minnesota Extension, offered these tips for a successful season:

1. You can plant cool-weather vegetables including radishes, kale and peas right now. But wait until at least mid-May to plant tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.

2. If you started seedlings inside, make sure they are getting enough sun and are in a well-drained container. When you are ready to move them outside, do so gradually. Start by putting them in a shady spot outside and bringing them into the house at night. Gradually move them into full-time sun.

3. Protect your tree trunks if they are young or fragile. The tree's circulation system, the cambium layer, is just beneath the bark. A lone bunny can inflict fatal damage.

4. Pay attention to your soil temperature. Before you plant, get your hands into the dirt and make sure you don't have any ice crystals in there or the seeds will rot instead of thrive.

5. If you are looking for new plants, consider using a bee-friendly plant rich with nectar. You can try bee balm, cone flowers, lupine, and asters. The bees are in danger and need some help.

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6. To start a garden, kill off grass in your plot using something like a dark plastic sheet over the grass for two months. If you can't wait, try building raised beds or a start a straw-bale garden. Those options are especially good if you have poor, sandy soil or live in an urban area that could have contaminants.

The waiting may be the hardest part. "Across the country, commercial vegetable growers and home gardeners are trying to gauge the impact of a cold, wet spring, balancing the itch to plant with the knowledge that flirting with spring's whims can bring heartache," according to NPR.


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