The Great Outdoors


Every year (and this year is no exception) gardeners get anxious to start gardening just as soon as the weather breaks. Well this is not the year for that early start-up, at least not outside. It is however, time to get your tomato and pepper seeds planted inside for that head start to planting in the garden around mid-May. Five weeks is plenty of time for tomatoes and six to seven weeks work for peppers. Remember that root crops such as radishes and carrots cannot be transplanted, as they would then grow crooked and twisted.

I always loved gardening and learning better tricks to early planting is sort of a game. First find out which flowers and vegetables can tolerate cold weather (even snow). Then learn which plants do poorly even when it is only slightly cool…there are many. One last group is the veggies that only like it hot! Cucumbers, squash and melons are among these but they do grow quickly and produce fruit early.

My best secret to early outdoor gardening is to find a time in March or early April when the soil is dry enough to till then do it all and cover at least half of it with plastic to try and keep it dry and ready for seeds and seedlings of cold crops. Do not rake the uncovered soil smooth. It is best to leave it rough and tilled just like the farmers do when they plow. Generally they do not disk until it is time to plant. This method keeps the garden soil loose and helps to break up clumps just at the time you are ready to plant.

This is a good time to fertilize or weed and feed your lawns. Fertilization of your yards can be done up to four times a year. Most people think of broad-leaf weed and feeds in early spring when they see dandelions blooming but it should be said that the best time to fight dandelions is in the fall when the plants are new and easier to kill. Once they have survived winter, they are extremely strong and much harder to kill. Since there is fertilizer in each application, I recommend applying it both spring and fall.

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Doug Hackbarth

Doug's is the former owner of Broadview Florist & Greenhouses in Waynedale. He authors a garden & landscaping article in the newspaper. In his adolescence he attended Hillcrest, Kekionga and Elmhurst HS. His expertise has been shared in print, tv and radio. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer