The Urban Garden: Preparing your Plots

Written by Dan Graves
    Monday, 06 May 2013
The Urban Garden: Preparing your Plots

Finally the weather has started to change for the better. Bloodroot, trout lily and other spring ephemerals are beginning to blossom. It is also the time of year when all gardeners are itchin’ to get their hands dirty.  Preparing your gardening space is the number one priority right now. In this blog post, I’ll let you know what I do to prepare my beds in early spring for plant success!

To begin, I clear off the leaves and straw that I used in the late fall to protect the soil over the winter time. I move this extra biomass to one of three places: onto the beds that have garlic (a little extra mulch doesn’t hurt), into my compost piles where they will eventually be recycled back into the soil or into the chicken run. Next, where I don’t have cold frames in my garden, I like to set out extra windows or black plastic garbage bags held down by rocks (it doesn’t look too great but it gets the job done) to warm the soil a bit before I plant. Typically, this takes about a week.
After the soil is warmed, I loosen the soil with a pitch fork to facilitate early root growth. Voila! You are ready to go! Follow the directions on the seed package and plant away! As of Sunday, April 28th, I have planted radishes, spinach, rainbow chard, turnips, peas and beets. The only ones that have emerged (partially due the help of a couple of handy cold frames) are peas, spinach and turnips. Additionally, I have set out some kale, cabbage and broccoli transplants that were started inside about a month ago.

I've always found one of the hardest times for gardening in Wisconsin to be the time between sowing the first spring crop in the garden and the first harvest. One way around this is not limiting yourself to “traditional” vegetables this spring. Wisconsin's blessed ground offers lots of other options for your palette. Some often overlooked spring edible plants to keep your eyes open for this spring are wood violets (pictured above), wild ramps, and dandelion greens. All of these plants and many more are great plants to satisfy your green need before the vegetables start flowing from your garden.

Need a Tool? Borrow Ours!

Lastly, as you get ready to plant your garden, don't forget to use the Urban Ecology Center's lending program for any last minute tool needs. Tools that are available include pitch forks, spades, rakes, hoes, trowels, weeders and more! Don't let spring get ahead of you...get out there and get in the dirt!

Dan Graves

Dan Graves

Dan Graves is an Environmental Educator at the Menomonee Valley branch, and has worked at the Urban Ecology Center since 2007. He is a proud native Wisconsinite and has a particular love for Milwaukee. Dan loves learning new things, especially about plants, animals, ecosystems, his wife, his children, bikes, gardens, theology, along with much more!


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