Seasonal garden chores

It’s April 2nd and I’ve been busy this week clearing brush, tilling and making raised beds.  I have peas, radishes, spinich, romaine lettuce and onions planted.  If the rain holds off, I should get the broccolli, brussels sprouts and potatoes planted soon.  I hope the weather in your region has allowed you to get your hands dirty this week.

             Wake Up Your Garden! Take 10% off orders of $75 or more at Gardener’s Supply Company! Offer ends 4.13.11. 

Seed and Starting Supplies

I usually get my seed, peat pots, potting soil and growing tray several weeks before I’m going to start my seedI have covered seed starting and needed supplies in the seed starting page.  If you’re going to start other vegetables or flowers, the seed packets will give you a time frame to start them but you’ll need to know the average date for the last frost in your area.  Your County Extension Service is a great resource to get that and any other information that you need.

Get the Tiller Ready

If you own a tiller, you need to go over some things so it’s ready when you are.  First, check the oil or change it if needed.  I only use my tiller once in the spring so I don’t have to change the oil that often.  I’ll usually put in a new spark plug every couple of years also.  I then check the grease in the gear casing and look around for any leaks.  Some years ago, I had used some twine in my garden and when I tilled it the next spring, my tiller picked up a length of that twine and wrapped it around the shaft, through the rubber seal and into the gear box.  Consequently, the gear box grease was leaking out.  I pulled out the twine and it resealed.  Just something to keep in mind. 

Next, I remove the air filter and check it.  Again, since I only use my tiller once in the spring, I’ll look at it but I usually clean it every other year.  You should check your tillers engine manual but, if it has a foam filter like mine, you can wash it in soap and water.  After you wash it, ring out the extra water and then pour a small amount of engine oil over it and squeeze it to make the oil spread through it.  The oil catches the dust and dirt so it doesn’t get into the carburetor.

The next thing I do with my tiller is sharpen the tines.  I put a lot of organic material on my garden and sharp tines really make a difference.  My tiller has 4 sets of tine assemblies (4 tines per assembly) that are easily removed by simply pulling out a pin from each assembly and then sliding them off the shaft.  The tine assemblies on my tiller can not be put on backwards, meaning the sharp edges of the tines will be in the correct position to cut into the soil.  Years ago I had a tiller that would allow you to put them on backwards.  Needless to say, it could make tilling pretty rough.  Of course, I’m not saying that I ever put them on backwards :).  I mean, that would be pretty dumb!  Anyway, after I remove them, I sharpen them on my bench grinder.  You can use a file but the grinder is so much easier and faster plus there are always many other jobs that you can use it for.  After you’ve sharpened them, slide them back on the shafts, secure them and you’re done.  Never put any oil or lube on the shafts because dirt will stick to it.

Finally, fill the tank with fresh gas and start it up.  It should start in 2 or 3 pulls but if it doesn’t start in a dozen pulls, there’s a problem.  Check the simple things like the spark plug wire not connected but, unless you’re a small engine whiz, you’ll need to take it to a professional.  That’s the advantage of checking things prior to the day you’re ready to get going!

Concerning your manual garden tools like the hoe, rake, shovel, potato fork, etc., you should get them all located in one place and take a quick check.  Since I dig beds in my vegetable garden (see plant in beds not rows), I also sharpen my round shovel.  

Do a Walk Through

I don’t clean my garden off in the fall because I till in all the organic material (grass clippings, leaves, straw, garden plants) to improve the soil (see Garden Soil).  I always walk around the garden and remove the bean towers, tomato cages, and anything else that needs to come out before I till.  With the winds that we have in the winter, sometimes you can find trash that could damage your tiller, such as the twine that I mentioned earlier.

Flower Garden

For the perennial flower garden, if you didn’t cut off the dead stems from your coneflowers, bee balm, black eyed susans, etc. last fall, you can do that now.  You can shake the seeds from the dried flower heads if you want them to spread even more.  If you have some compost, you should spread some on.  Sometimes I buy bags of the cow manure humus and spread it around the bed.  It’s inexpensive and seems to get them off to a good start. 

If you have an area that you plant annuals in every year, you can prepare it by turning it with a potato fork or tilling depending on how big the area is.  Mixing in some compost or humus will improve the soil and get your annuals going good when you plant them.

Be Patient

If you’re like me, you want to get in the garden but we still have some time to wait.  Don’t work your garden when it’s wet and check the last frost date for your area.  There are cool weather vegetable crops that you can put in soon (Growing Vegetables) and even some flowers that will handle a light frost but make sure you check and time your plantings accordingly.

Good Luck and Enjoy!

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