Tips for early spring

One of the best things about warmer weather is vibrant, lush flowers and bountiful vegetable gardens. As with the case of many worthwhile things in life, a flourishing garden needs a little bit of TLC to reach its full potential.

The gardening experts at Ace Hardware in Anacortes, Chris Holly, LeaAnn Newman, and Deb Moser, offered some of their tried-and-true tips. In addition to helping customers with their gardening needs, these knowledgeable women each grow and maintain their own gardens. Here’s a few of their suggestions for prepping your garden this spring.

As with any project, you’ll need a plan. Holly suggests determining how much room you’ll need for plants and crops. Consider if plantings have the potential for growing upward or outward. Think about how much time you can devote to your garden in the coming months and choose plants whose care fits your schedule. Take your time planning and aim for simplicity. Newman’s advice: “Start simple, but start it right.”

Within your gardening plan, try to choose a variety of plants that will benefit each another. Some plants act as pest deterrents for others. Some help enhance the flavor of a vegetable, as is the case with mint grown alongside cabbage. By thinking this way, you’ll allow Mother Nature to do what she does best. It’ll also discourage using chemically laden pesticides. Which brings us to the next tip: Since you and the birds, worms, bees, and other critters are all consuming the harvest, Holly reminds us to aim for sustainable gardening practices.

Before planting, be sure to hand-till the soil. It’s not necessary to dig into the ground, just stir things up. Use compost to feed your plants. Homemade is the best (and most economical), but there are some great soil amendments on the market.

Once your plants are in the ground, consider maintenance, nourishment, and reproduction. For example, if you have fruit plants, use a horticulture oil spray. An oil spray will protect your fruit plants from pests and disease, while keeping the fruit safe for consumption.

Consider releasing pollinators into your garden. “Pollinators cause you to have a really wonderful harvest,” said Moser. Mason bees are an ideal choice. The species is independent with little to no risk of stinging since the males don’t have stingers and the females only sting if trapped. You can buy mason bees or try to persuade them to come to your garden.

Finally, keep in mind gardening is a year-round hobby. Garden planning can be done in the fall for the following year, seedlings can be started in February, and Holly likes to prune her roses on Valentine’s Day, the day serving as the perfect reminder. Many resources are available outlining when and what needs be done, but some good ones are the National Gardening Association’s website,, or ask folks at your local nursery for advice. Happy digging!

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