We all know that it is "officially" spring but in many parts of the country the calendar is teasing us! It may still be cold out and our frost free dates are still many weeks away, but let’s talk about what you can do now in your garden.

First the hard stuff “soil prep”. So hard to do and so important!
We prefer to do most of our soil prep in the fall as we put the garden to bed. Best to follow the rule of roto-till in fall and only top dress in the spring. If you did your prep work in fall you can just top dress and use a rake and you are ready. But if you were too busy last fall you can do some of that prep in early spring. Every year we like to add new organic mater such as aged manure, well turned compost or peat. Our rule of thumb with aged organic matter is you can never add too much – consider adding at least a few centimeters (1”) and more if practical. Assuming your garden is not too wet either spade in the organic matter by hand or use a roto-tiller to work into the garden beds. Most folks till down at least 15 cm (6”) but if you are crazy for root crops like carrots and potatoes work to go deeper.

Raised beds may need some attention too. In addition to adding some organic matter and hand turning the beds, keep an eye out for any repairs fixing rotting wood or boards that are bowing outward. Repair any bowed boards using internal braces.

Once your soil prep is out of the way we can talk about the fun stuff “spring flowers and veggies”. We have a long wait till it’s warm enough for tomato and pepper plants but there are lots of jobs we can do!

Typically we suggest two waves of veggie seed planting in early spring. The first wave is the “darn it is still cold but if I don’t get into the garden and plant now I will go insane” phase when we can plant the cold loving seeds. Peas are amazing in this case as they can be planted when there is still some snow on the ground. Other cool veggies include lettuce and spinach, carrots, radish, beets, leeks and onions.

The second wave of cool season veggies can go out when it is still too cold for tomatoes and peppers but we are past the real cold frosts. Here we can plant our broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes and cabbage.

Word of advice for obsessed tomato and pepper growing people, you may plant your plants early but only if you protect those tender plants from frost. If you can do this without killing your plants you can harvest sooner and get more total fruit. There are many different ideas on how to protect tomato plants from frost: from building small poly tunnels to using water filled Kozy-Coats (MT303) or the more traditional Hot-Hats (PH10), they all have some risk involved but if you are a true tomato lover you can and must try to beat the season!

Flowers are often neglected in early spring, as most of our “spring” flowers are warm loving annuals like geraniums. Quite a few annual flowers are cool loving plants and they do best when planted early. Flowers than can take a hard frost that still look good include sweet peas, pansies and violas. One of our favorite old time flowers is the nasturtium. They thrive in cool weather and we like to add the flowers as decoration to salads, as nasturtiums are "edible" flowers and are usually in full bloom as we are in peak lettuce harvest! These are all easy to grow from seed.

A special big showy flower for cool weather is the Osteospermum. They are not directly sown outdoors, but could inspire you to start indoors next year. It has big daisy flowers in bold colors and flowers its best when temps are cool at night. Consider using this as a focal point plant for your patio or deck and plan to change it out with warm loving annuals such as New Guinea Impatiens or Geraniums when the weather turns hot.

So it is still cool outside and yes we might still get some snow, but it is not too early to be out in the garden!

By Laurie Scullen