Ready to garden?

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Farm Forum

April is a cruel month for gardeners in South Dakota. The calendar says that it is spring, but it is too cold to plant vegetables or flowers outdoors.

There are, however, things that gardeners can do now, said Dana Althoff, manager at Parkview Nursery.

Here are five tips from Althoff:

1. Plant indoors

Gardeners can give their plants a head start by starting them from seed indoors and then transplanting them outdoors when the weather is warmer.

It is a simple procedure, Althoff said. Get a seeding tray or small pots and fill them with a fine germination soil mix. Plant the seeds in the soil. Watering is a little tricky in that it is best to use a spray bottle rather than pour water onto the seeded soil, she said. Mist the soil three times a day to keep it moist. Place the containers in a sunny window.

Common vegetable plants to start are tomato and pepper plants. Most flowers should probably wait to be planted outdoors; however, sunflowers, petunias or asters are good choices for indoor planting, Althoff said.

2. Plot out your garden

Early spring is a good time to plan what plants will go into your garden. One fun way to do it is to draw your garden to scale on a piece of paper and then portion off the areas for the different plants, Althoff said.

Many gardeners have already begun to visit Parkview Nursery to look some of the plants in the greenhouse, she said. The customers are not necessarily buying anything, but are looking at what is available for later purchase.

3. Prepare the soil

While it is too early to plant because of low soil temperatures and potential for frost, it is not too early to till or fertilize the soil.

Digging in the ground on a cool, crisp day can be invigorating and will save time when you’re ready to plant. It is a good time to apply well-composted manure or peat moss, she said.

Any old perennials can be trimmed back. Also the lawn can be addressed, she said. Crabgrass killers should be applied in late April, she said.

4. Plant a container garden

Many people are cutting back on their garden size by planting flowers or vegetables in containers and arranging them on a patio or porch. The containers can be large, like a half barrel, or small like a 5-gallon bucket. The advantage is that the containers are easier to weed and maintain than a full garden. Some planting can begin now indoors and then the container can be moved outdoors later in the season.

5. Educate

Read books or attend classes. Parkview Nursery, for example, teaches gardening classes.