University of Illinois Extension


Sharon A. Yiesla

Unit Educator, Horticulture
Lake County

Past Issues

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Are You Ready to Garden?

Are you ready to garden? Since this is the February-March issue, this question may seem a bit premature, but it really isn't. This is a good time of year to take stock of what we have and/or what we may need to obtain for the upcoming gardening season. A little planning and work now will allow us more time in the garden when the time is right for planting.

Garden tools: Examine your tools. Were they cleaned before storage last fall? If not, take time now to remove caked on soil and inspect the tools to see if they need to be sharpened, repaired or replaced. Do your existing tools really do the job you need them to do? If not, you may want to consider purchasing the tools that will do the job.

Hoses and watering devices: Check yours to make sure they are in good working order and don't leak. Hoses may need new washers to keep them from leaking. Clean the nozzles of water wands and lawn sprinklers to unplug them.

Seeds: If you have seeds left over from last season, now would be a good time to see if they are still good. Take ten seeds and place them between two moist paper towels. Keep the paper towels moist and check every 2 or 3 days to see if the seeds are sprouting. Different seeds take different amounts of time to germinate; the seed packet should give this information. If less than 70 percent of the seeds sprout, consider buying new seed. Do this test now, so you aren't disappointed later when it is time to plant. Don't start seeds indoors yet, most won't need to be started until late March or early April.

Fertilizers and pesticides: If you have fertilizers and pesticides (weed killers, insecticides and fungicides) left over from last season, take an inventory of what you have. This will save you from buying products that you already have on hand. If your pesticides are several years old, call the manufacturer for information on whether or not they can still be used. The manufacturer's phone number can usually be found on the product label. If products are no longer usable, call local officials to see if there are any household hazardous waste collections scheduled for your area. Do not dump these products in the garbage, hold them for an authorized collection.

Plant wish list: Have you been thinking about which plants you want to add to your garden? This is a great time to thumb through all those catalogs and make your wish list. With a plan in mind, you'll be a better shopper when you go to the garden center this spring. A planned list may keep you from buying a lot of plants on the spur of the moment; plants that may not be right for your garden.

Compost pile: Go out and check your compost. With the relatively mild winter we've been having, your pile may still be working. You can encourage this by turning the pile and keeping it active.

Pruning: Trees and shrubs are dormant at this time and many of them can be pruned now (a good job for the pleasant winter days we've been having). Do not prune shrubs that will bloom in spring. Pruning now will remove flower buds. Do not prune evergreens at this time either. It is too early. During February and March, you can prune most deciduous trees as well as shrubs that bloom in summer.

Take advantage of the off-season to get yourself and your garden prepared for planting time. Work done now will save you time later when you are ready to really get out and garden.

February–March 2000: Are You Ready To Garden? | Pros & Cons Of Snow | Color In The Flower Garden | Butterfly Gardening

Past Issues

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