Q: What can I do in my garden right now to get ready for spring?
A: Short answer, not a lot. There are a few things that can be done now to help your garden get off to a great start. Whether you are a 'till or no till' kind of gardener, it's not too late to cover your garden with a layer of composted manure (horse, cow, chicken, turkey), leaf mold or similar degraded soil amendment. This can be tilled in or turned under in a few months when the soil warms up and dries out enough to be worked.
If you are of the no-till persuasion, you can plant through this material and it will help suppress those pesky weeds while it further decomposes and percolates nutrients down into your soil. You should be aware that too thick of a layer (more than say 3 or 4 inches) will delay the spring warm up of your soil and can delay your planting time.
It probably is too late to put fresh manure on your garden. Fresh manure means manure that hasn't yet decomposed. Fresh or raw manure is too biologically active and can harm plant roots, particularly the tender young seedlings or plant starts in your garden. If you have a source of manure and some space, consider starting or adding to your existing compost bin/pile. This fresh manure can be decomposing as your garden grows and be available as compost in a few months. As a backyard gardener, you can't have too much composted plant material and manure to use as a mulch to suppress weeds, add nutrients and retain moisture. Continuous addition of composted material to your garden over a period of years will fix a host of soil issues and make your garden much more productive over time.
The other things that can be done now in the garden largely fall into the planning category. Such as... What am I going to plant? Vegetables? Fruits? Is my garden in the right spot? Does my garden get enough sun? Do I need to move it? Do I want to expand it? Should I try raised beds this year?
The 'what should I plant' question is more complicated than can be answered here. I'm guessing many gardeners are like me when it comes to reading seed catalogues. My seed appetite far exceeds my garden capacity. Not many summers go by without tomatoes and squash plants spilling out of my garden confines. And not many summers end without me having unplanted seed that I didn't have time or space to include. Word to the wise!
The Greene County Master Gardeners are presently working on two gardens at the 4-H Fairgrounds. A Native Medicinal Plant Garden is being installed east of the Greene County Community Events Center at the curve in the driveway. This circular garden will contain plants native to Indiana long cultivated for their medicinal value. A Demonstration Vegetable Garden is also being developed just north of the Commercial Bldg. This garden will demonstrate a variety of backyard gardening methods including raised beds, elevated beds, trellising, hoop structures, compost bin types and a rainwater harvesting system.
This month's question is answered by David B. Hughes, Vice-President, Greene County Master Gardeners. Send your garden-related questions directly to the Master Gardeners for consideration to be answered here each month. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them by mail to Ask a Greene Gardener, c/o Greene County Extension 4513 W SR 54, Bloomfield, IN 47424.