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Gardening in Minnesota

Updated on March 2, 2013

Prepare Now for a Successful Garden

It is March in Minnesota, which means it is still snowy but the temperatures are easing up. The air has promise of moisture, and gardeners minds turn to dirt.

They don't turn into dirt, they just start scheming about their gardens, new plants to try this year, how to start things from seed, and those vibrantly colored seed catalogs only feed the mania. Here are a few things you should consider now, in order to have a successful garden later:

  1. If you are interested in learning from your mistakes, then it becomes necessary to keep a record of what you plant. You can do this in varying degrees; some people keep a spreadsheet of the various conditions and plant locations, other merely jot notes to themselves in a spiral notebook. Whichever suits you best, it is helpful to be able to look back at your plant performance, weather conditions, age of the plant and any other variables (was there a lack of rain, did you go out of town and leave your plants on their own for two weeks, was there a blight of Asiatic beetles?). It is easy to think you'll remember these things during the summer, but the details get murky by the time March rolls around.
  2. If you want an economic way of filling your garden, one way to do it is to start plants from seeds. If you begin in March, your seeds will have a good head start once the weather starts to convince you it won't always be winter. There are many ways to successfully start your own seeds, but the main factors are light, heat and drainage. Whether you get a kit from the store, or start them in toilet paper rolls, they will need lots of light, adequate heat and good drainage so they don't melt away before your eyes.
  3. If you want your plants to have the best chance at growing successfully, you'll want to attend to your soil. Most gardeners are so excited about the flowers or vegetables above the ground, they don't think much about what's going on beneath the ground. As soon as you can get into your garden, take a sample and have it tested. Knowing if it leans towards alkaline or acidity is helpful when trying to assess whether it needs to be amended. Even if it doesn't, it is a good idea to take time to add good things to your soil. Depending on its condition, it will need different things, but if you don't ever invest in your soil, it will show up in your plants.

It can be fun to experiment with new plants. I have my eye on a Victoria Blue Salvia this year. I saw it at a park last summer, and circled around to it at least three times because the color was so striking. It isn't hardy here in Minnesota, but there are ways of getting around that (wink!).

Taking time in the winter to prepare and plan for summer is good not only for your garden but also for you. It can save you time later, help you be more efficient when it comes time to make that trip to the garden center, and gives you time to consider new aspects of your garden you hadn't previously. There's lots of time between now and the magical no-frost date (which is officially Memorial Day, but who can wait that long?) to make plans for a spectacular garden this summer.

(Here's that variety of Salvia mentioned above: )


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